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Modeling Short-Range Order in Disordered Rocksalt Cathodes by Pair Distribution Function Analysis...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Chemistry of Materials
Publication Date
Page Numbers
4922 to 4934

Pair distribution function (PDF) analysis is a powerful technique for the characterization of short-range order (SRO) in disordered materials. Accurate interpretation of experimental PDF data is critically reliant on the development of structural models that can account for local variations in site occupancies and bond lengths. To this end, we outline an approach to model SRO using first-principles calculations based on the cluster-expansion formalism. These methods are validated on neutron scattering data from two disordered rocksalt oxyfluorides, Li1.3Mn0.4Ti0.3O1.7F0.3 and Li1.3Mn0.4Nb0.2Ti0.1O1.7F0.3. For each composition, we demonstrate that an average structure without any SRO fails to reproduce several key features in the experimental PDF. To pinpoint the origin of the suspected SRO in these materials, configurational and displacive effects were separately investigated using two disparate models. Special quasi-random structures were relaxed using density functional theory to account for local changes in bond lengths while maintaining a near-random ionic configuration. This leads to slightly improved accuracy but still misrepresents asymmetry in the first few peaks of the PDF. Monte Carlo simulations were performed to model configurational SRO on a fixed lattice, which by itself is shown to have a minimal influence on the PDF. Instead, we find that it is the bond length relaxations within environments created by SRO which controls the details of the PDF, thereby highlighting the subtle but important coupling between configurational and displacive SRO in disordered materials.