To investigate surface segregation in yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ), DFT energies describing surface energy as a function of yttrium lattice position were used to parameterize a reactive-force field (ReaxFF). We used ReaxFF to perform Monte Carlo (MC) simulated annealing to sample structural configurations of flat YSZ (111) and vicinal YSZ (111) stepped surfaces. We evaluated yttrium surface segregation, oxygen vacancy position, and surface step composition for flat and stepped YSZ surfaces. It is thermodynamically favorable for yttrium atoms to segregate to the surface of YSZ, and specifically to step edge sites. Surface saturation of yttrium occurs at approximately 40% (40:60 Y:Zr ratio) while yttrium concentration at the step edge does not approach a saturation value, suggesting that steps on the YSZ surface are mainly yttria-terminated. We found that it is thermodynamically favorable for oxygen vacancies to occupy positions in the subsurface layer of YSZ, and a higher fraction of vacancies occupy positions NN to Y than NN to Zr. Yttrium segregation to step edges on the YSZ surface does not lower the surface formation energy of the stepped surface below that of the flat (111) termination, suggesting that the stability of YSZ surface steps observed experimentally is due to kinetic barriers for surface re-ordering.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Surfaces and Interfaces
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry