Exploring cation disorder in mixed-metal pyrochlore ceramics using 17O NMR spectroscopy and first-principles calculations

Arantxa Fernandes, Robert F Moran, David McKay, Ben Griffiths, Anna Herlihy, Karl R Whittle, Daniel McLean Dawson*, Sharon E. Ashbrook*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Characterising the local structures (e.g., the cation distribution) of mixed-metal ceramics by NMR spectroscopy is often challenging owing to the unfavourable properties (low γ, large quadrupole moment and/or low abundance) of many metal nuclei. 17O is an attractive option owing to the prevalence of oxygen within ceramics. The moderate γ and small quadrupole moment of 17O mean that the greatest barrier to accessing the information available from this nucleus is isotopic enrichment. We explore the challenges of ensuring uniform isotopic enrichment with 17O2(g) for the pyrochlore solid solutions, Y2SnxTi2xO7, La2SnxZr2–xO7 and La2SnxHf2xO7, demonstrating that high enrichment temperatures (900 °C for 12 h) are required. In addition, for sites with very high symmetry (such as the tetrahedral OY4 and OLa4 sites with CQ ≈ 0 present here), we demonstrate that quantitative 17O NMR spectra require correction for the differing contributions from the centreband of the satellite transitions, which can be as high as a factor of ~3.89. It is common to use first-principles calculations to aid in interpreting NMR spectra of disordered solids. Here, we use an ensemble modelling approach to ensure that all possible cation arrangements are modelled in the minimum possible number of calculations. By combining uniform isotopic enrichment, quantitative NMR spectroscopy and a comprehensive computational approach, we are able to show that the cation distribution in Y2SnxTi2xO7 is essentially random, whereas in La2SnxZr2xO7 and La2SnxHf2xO7, OLa2SnZr and OLa2SnHf sites are slightly energetically disfavoured, leading to a weak preference for clustering of like cations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalMagnetic Resonance in Chemistry
Issue number9-10
Early online date15 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


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