Exploring the crystallization path of lithium disilicate through metadynamics simulations

F Lodesani and F Tavanti and MC Menziani and K Maeda and Y Takato and S Urata and A Pedone, PHYSICAL REVIEW MATERIALS, 5, 075602 (2021).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevMaterials.5.075602

Understanding the crystallization mechanism in silica-based materials is of paramount importance to comprehend geological phenomena and to design novel materials for a variety of technological and industrial applications. In this work, we show that metadynamics simulations can effectively overcome a large energy barrier to crystallize from viscous oxide glass melts and can be used to identify the melt-to-crystal transition path of the lithium disilicate system. The accelerated atomistic simulation revealed of a two-step mechanism of the nanoscale crystal formation. First, a partially layered silica embryo appeared, and then a more ordered crystalline layer with size larger than the critical nucleus size was formed. Subsequently, lithium ions piled up around the silicate layer and triggered stacking of adjacent silicate layers, which eventually built a perfect crystal. Contrarily to previous hypotheses, no lithium metasilicate crystal was observed as a precursor of the homogeneous crystallization of lithium disilicate.

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