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Methods for Melting Temperature Calculation


Hong, Qi-Jun (2015) Methods for Melting Temperature Calculation. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z98C9T6H.


Melting temperature calculation has important applications in the theoretical study of phase diagrams and computational materials screenings. In this thesis, we present two new methods, i.e., the improved Widom's particle insertion method and the small-cell coexistence method, which we developed in order to capture melting temperatures both accurately and quickly.

We propose a scheme that drastically improves the efficiency of Widom's particle insertion method by efficiently sampling cavities while calculating the integrals providing the chemical potentials of a physical system. This idea enables us to calculate chemical potentials of liquids directly from first-principles without the help of any reference system, which is necessary in the commonly used thermodynamic integration method. As an example, we apply our scheme, combined with the density functional formalism, to the calculation of the chemical potential of liquid copper. The calculated chemical potential is further used to locate the melting temperature. The calculated results closely agree with experiments.

We propose the small-cell coexistence method based on the statistical analysis of small-size coexistence MD simulations. It eliminates the risk of a metastable superheated solid in the fast-heating method, while also significantly reducing the computer cost relative to the traditional large-scale coexistence method. Using empirical potentials, we validate the method and systematically study the finite-size effect on the calculated melting points. The method converges to the exact result in the limit of a large system size. An accuracy within 100 K in melting temperature is usually achieved when the simulation contains more than 100 atoms. DFT examples of Tantalum, high-pressure Sodium, and ionic material NaCl are shown to demonstrate the accuracy and flexibility of the method in its practical applications. The method serves as a promising approach for large-scale automated material screening in which the melting temperature is a design criterion.

We present in detail two examples of refractory materials. First, we demonstrate how key material properties that provide guidance in the design of refractory materials can be accurately determined via ab initio thermodynamic calculations in conjunction with experimental techniques based on synchrotron X-ray diffraction and thermal analysis under laser-heated aerodynamic levitation. The properties considered include melting point, heat of fusion, heat capacity, thermal expansion coefficients, thermal stability, and sublattice disordering, as illustrated in a motivating example of lanthanum zirconate (La2Zr2O7). The close agreement with experiment in the known but structurally complex compound La2Zr2O7 provides good indication that the computation methods described can be used within a computational screening framework to identify novel refractory materials. Second, we report an extensive investigation into the melting temperatures of the Hf-C and Hf-Ta-C systems using ab initio calculations. With melting points above 4000 K, hafnium carbide (HfC) and tantalum carbide (TaC) are among the most refractory binary compounds known to date. Their mixture, with a general formula TaxHf1-xCy, is known to have a melting point of 4215 K at the composition Ta4HfC5, which has long been considered as the highest melting temperature for any solid. Very few measurements of melting point in tantalum and hafnium carbides have been documented, because of the obvious experimental difficulties at extreme temperatures. The investigation lets us identify three major chemical factors that contribute to the high melting temperatures. Based on these three factors, we propose and explore a new class of materials, which, according to our ab initio calculations, may possess even higher melting temperatures than Ta-Hf-C. This example also demonstrates the feasibility of materials screening and discovery via ab initio calculations for the optimization of "higher-level" properties whose determination requires extensive sampling of atomic configuration space.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:melting temperature calculation; density functional theory; Widom's particle insertion method; small-cell coexistence method; highest melting temperature; lanthanum zirconate; hafnium-tantalum-carbon-nitrogen; sodium phase diagram.
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemistry
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • van de Walle, Axel
Thesis Committee:
  • Goddard, William A., III (chair)
  • Miller, Thomas F.
  • Lewis, Nathan Saul
  • van de Walle, Axel
Defense Date:28 October 2014
Non-Caltech Author Email:qijun_hong (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:11092014-074023936
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8721
Deposited By: Qijun Hong
Deposited On:13 Nov 2014 18:55
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:07

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