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Observing and Modeling the Sequential Pairwise Reactions that Drive Solid-State Ceramic Synthesis.


Solid-state synthesis from powder precursors is the primary processing route to advanced multicomponent ceramic materials. Designing reaction conditions and precursors for ceramic synthesis can be a laborious, trial-and-error process, as heterogeneous mixtures of precursors often evolve through a complicated series of reaction intermediates. Here, ab initio thermodynamics is used to model which pair of precursors has the most reactive interface, enabling the understanding and anticipation of which non-equilibrium intermediates form in the early stages of a solid-state reaction. In situ X-ray diffraction and in situ electron microscopy are then used to observe how these initial intermediates influence phase evolution in the synthesis of the classic high-temperature superconductor YBa2 Cu3 O6+ x   (YBCO). The model developed herein rationalizes how the replacement of the traditional BaCO3 precursor with BaO2 redirects phase evolution through a low-temperature eutectic melt, facilitating the formation of YBCO in 30 min instead of 12+ h. Precursor selection plays an important role in tuning the thermodynamics of interfacial reactions and emerges as an important design parameter in planning kinetically favorable synthesis pathways to complex ceramic materials.

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