High-temperature active oxidation of nanocrystalline silicon-carbide: A reactive force-field molecular dynamics study

L Capaldi and F Sansoz, ACTA MATERIALIA, 258, 119229 (2023).

DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2023.119229

Flexible woven SiC ceramics are prone to accelerated fiber embrittlement under high temperature oxidation in dynamic oxygen environments. The nanocrystalline structure of the constituent fibers impacts the reaction kinetics and phase transformations during active oxidation. However, fundamental understanding and quantifi-cation of grain boundary effects on oxidation behavior in nanocrystalline SiC remain elusive when temperatures exceed 1500 K. This study deploys large-scale molecular dynamics simulations with a reactive force-field to elucidate the complex roles of atomic oxygen reservoir conditions and grain size on oxidation kinetics and the nature of oxides produced in both monocrystalline and nanocrystalline 3C-SiC between 1100 K and 2000 K. The simulations with dynamically replenished oxygen provide good agreement with oxidation kinetics and activation energies for the monocrystalline Si(100) and C(100) orientations published in the available literature. This study reveals that, by contrast, nanocrystalline SiC samples exhibit two distinct oxidation kinetics with a transition point at 1500 K due to surface melting, which is supported by experimental evidence. The introduction of a grain-boundary network produces a two-fold decrease in oxidation activation energies compared to mono-crystalline SiC below 1500 K. Above 1500 K, however, the activation energies rise substantially due to the formation of a liquid Si phase at the SiC/Si oxide interface. It is shown that the stability of the interfacial liquid phase is promoted by incoherent grain boundaries in the crystalline SiC. These findings are important for the deployment of nanocrystalline SiC fibers in advanced thermal protection systems for high-temperature applications.

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