Electronic structure and bonding of intergranular glassy films in polycrystalline Si3N4: Ab initio studies and classical molecular dynamics simulations

P. Rulis, J. Chen, L. Ouyang, W. Y. Ching, X. Su, Steve Garofalini

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The electronic structure and bonding of a realistic model of an intergranular glassy film (IGF) was studied with multiple computational methods. The model has a Si-O-N glassy region sandwiched between crystalline basal planes of β-Si3N4 and contains a total of 798 atoms. It was constructed with periodic boundary conditions via classical molecular dynamics (MD) techniques using an accurate multibody atomic potential. The model was then further relaxed by the VASP (Vienna ab initio simulation package) program. It is shown that the VASP-relaxed structure reduces the total energy from the MD-relaxed structure by only 47.38eV, validating the accuracy of the multiatom potential used. The calculated electronic structure shows the IGF model to be an insulator with a sizable gap of almost 3eV. Quasidefectlike states can be identified near the band edges arising from the more strained Si-N and Si-O bonds at the interface. Calculation of the Mulliken effective charge and bond order values indicates that the bonds in the glassy region and at the interface can be enhanced and weakened by distortions in the bond length and bond angle. The states at the top of the valence band are derived mostly from the crystalline part of the Si-N bonding while the states at the bottom of the conduction band are dominated by the Si-O bonding in the glassy region. Calculation of the electrostatic potential across the interface shows an average band offset of about 1.5eV between the crystalline β-Si3N4 and the glassy Si-O-N region which could be related to the space charge model for IGF.

Original languageEnglish
Article number235317
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - Jun 15 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics

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