Structural and magnetic disorder in crystalline materials : a first principles study

Sammanfattning: Disorder in crystalline materials can take different forms and originate from different sources. In particular, temperature introduces disorder in any kind of material. This can be observed as the appearance of vacant lattice sites in an otherwise perfect crystal, or as a random distribution of different elements on the same lattice in an alloy; at the same time, if the material is magnetic, temperature induces disorder also on the magnetic degrees of freedom. In this thesis, different levels of disorder associated to structure and magnetism are investigated by means of density functional theory and thermodynamic models.I start with diffusion of Ti vacancies in TiN, which is studied by means of nonequilibrium ab initio molecular dynamics using the color diffusion algorithm at different temperatures. The result is an Arrhenius behavior of Ti vacancy jump rates.A method to perform structural relaxations in magnetic materials in their hightemperature paramagnetic phase is then developed based on the disordered local moments approach in order to study vacancies, interstitial atoms, and combinations of defects in paramagnetic bcc Fe and B1 CrN, as well as the mixing enthalpy of bcc Fe1−xCrx random alloys. A correction to the energetics of every system due to the relaxation in the disordered magnetic state is observed in all cases.Not related to temperature and disorder, but very important for an accurate description of magnetic materials, is the choice of the exchange and correlation functional to be employed in the first principles calculations. We have investigated the performance of a recently developed meta-GGA functional, the strongly constrained and appropriately normed (SCAN) functional, in comparison with the more commonly used LDA and PBE on the ferromagnetic elemental solids bcc Fe, fcc Ni, and hcp Co, and SCAN it is found to give negligible improvements, if not a worsening, in the description of these materials.Finally, the coupling between vibrational and magnetic degrees of freedom is discussed by reviewing the literature and proposing an investigation of the influence of vibrations on longitudinal spin fluctuations. These excitations are here studied by means of thermodynamic models based on Landau expansion of the energy in even powers of the magnitude of the local magnetic moments. We find that vibrational and magnetic disorder alter the energy landscapes as a function of moment size also in bcc Fe, which is often considered a Heisenberg system, inducing a more itinerant electron behavior.

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