Iron is known to undergo a pressure-induced phase transition from the ferromagnetic (FM) body-centered-cubic (bcc) α -phase to the nonmagnetic (NM) hexagonal-close-packed (hcp) ε -phase, with a large observed pressure hysteresis whose origin is still a matter of debate. Long ago, Burgers [Physica (Amsterdam) 1, 561 (1934)] proposed an adiabatic pathway for bcc to hcp transitions involving crystal shear followed by atom shuffles. However, a quantum mechanics search in six-dimensional stress-strain space reveals a much lower energy path, where the crystal smoothly shears along the entire path while the atoms shuffle only near the transition state (TS). The energy profile for this phase transition path exhibits a cusp at the TS and closely follows bcc and hcp diabatic energy wells. Both the cusp and the overlap with diabatic energy surfaces are hallmarks of nonadiabaticity, analogous to, e.g., electron transfer (ET) reactions in liquids. Fluctuations in the positions of FM bcc iron atoms near the TS induce magnetic quenching (akin to solvent fluctuations inducing ET), which then promotes NM hcp iron formation (akin to solvent reorganization after ET). We propose that the nonadiabatic nature of this transition at the atomic scale may contribute to the observed pressure hysteresis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry