Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol.143, No.11, 4193-4204, 2021
Probing the Local Site Disorder and Distortion in Pyrochlore High-Entropy Oxides
High-entropy oxides (HEOs) have attracted great interest in diverse fields because of their inherent opportunities to tailor and combine materials functionalities. The control of local order/disorder in the class is by extension a grand challenge toward realizing their vast potential. Here we report the first examples of pyrochlore HEOs with five M-site cations, for Nd2M2O7, in which the local structure has been investigated by neutron diffraction and pair distribution function (PDF) analysis. The average structure of the pyrochlores is found to be orthorhombic Imma, in agreement with radius-ratio rules governing the structural archetype. The computed PDFs from density functional theory relaxed special quasirandom structure models are compared with real space PDFs in this work to evaluate M-site order/disorder. Reverse Monte Carlo combined with ab initio molecular dynamics and Metropolis Monte Carlo simulations demonstrates that Nd-2(Ta0.2Sc0.2Sn0.2Hf0.2Zr0.2)(2)O-7 is synthesized with its M-site local to nanoscale order highly randomized/disordered, while Nd-2(Ti0.2Nb0.2Sn0.2Hf0.2Zr0.2)(2)O7+x exhibits a strong distortion of the TiO6 octahedron and small degree of Ti chemical short-range order (SRO) on the subnanometer scale. Calculations suggest that this may be intrinsic, energetically favored SRO rather than due to sample processing. These results offer an important demonstration that the engineered variation of participating ions in HEOs, even among those with very similar radii, provides richly diverse opportunities to control local order/disorder motifs-and therefore materials properties for future designs. This work also hints at the exquisite level of detail that may be needed in computational and experimental data analysis to guide structure-property tuning in the emerging HEO materials class.