For the first time, we experimentally detected the formation of 6-fold symmetry patterned microcrystals of AlN (aluminum nitride), such as simple prisms, stellar and sectored plates, and stellar and fernlike stellar dendrites. These crystals were formed during combustion of a solid mixture of Al + kAlF3 (k = 0.05-0.1 mol) under a nitrogen atmosphere (PN2 = 2.5 MPa). The combustion temperature recorded with a thermocouple was in the 1700-1900 °C range. We examined the physical mechanisms governing the formation of AlN crystals, and we treated this problem as a case study of the dynamics of crystal growth from the liquid phase. Particular attention was given to the basic theoretical understanding of the subject, utilizing first-principles density functional theory calculations. The Wulff construction method was applied to identify equilibrium structures of nano- and microscale AlN crystals. Energy minimization arguments were used to show that certain crystal planes of AlN are more probable than others, giving the crystal 6-fold symmetry. The integrated experiments and computations form the basis for our proposal of the underlying mechanisms for nucleation and growth of the AlN crystals.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work is supported by National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grants (NRF-2014R1A2A1A11049997 and NRF-2011-0031839) funded by the Korean government (MSIP).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics