Control of Surface Chemical Reactions through Solid Stiffness

JQ Xi and I Szlufarska, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 129, 106101 (2022).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.129.106101

Control of surface reactions is commonly achieved by modification of surface electronic structures. Here, we discover an alternative pathway for controlling surface reactions by tuning the mechanical stiffness of the underlying material. We find that in addition to the typically assumed surface electronic contribution right at the reactive site, the contribution from the deformation of the bulk region plays a vital role in controlling surface reactions. The underlying mechanism is an elastic relaxation of the solid, which depends on the material's stiffness and can be modified by tuning bulk stoichiometry. The effect of bulk stiffness on surface reactions has been demonstrated by considering hydrogen scission reaction and oxygen incorporation reaction during corrosion of amorphous SiC in water and air, respectively. Our results imply that tuning of bulk stiffness by modifying stoichiometry can provide an effective method for controlling surface reactions.

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