Probing disorder in isometric pyrochlore and related complex oxides

Nat Mater. 2016 May;15(5):507-11. doi: 10.1038/nmat4581. Epub 2016 Feb 29.


There has been an increased focus on understanding the energetics of structures with unconventional ordering (for example, correlated disorder that is heterogeneous across different length scales). In particular, compounds with the isometric pyrochlore structure, A2B2O7, can adopt a disordered, isometric fluorite-type structure, (A, B)4O7, under extreme conditions. Despite the importance of the disordering process there exists only a limited understanding of the role of local ordering on the energy landscape. We have used neutron total scattering to show that disordered fluorite (induced intrinsically by composition/stoichiometry or at far-from-equilibrium conditions produced by high-energy radiation) consists of a local orthorhombic structural unit that is repeated by a pseudo-translational symmetry, such that orthorhombic and isometric arrays coexist at different length scales. We also show that inversion in isometric spinel occurs by a similar process. This insight provides a new basis for understanding order-to-disorder transformations important for applications such as plutonium immobilization, fast ion conduction, and thermal barrier coatings.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Models, Chemical*
  • Molecular Probe Techniques*
  • Neutron Diffraction / methods*
  • Niobium / chemistry*
  • Oxides / chemistry*
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Oxides
  • Niobium
  • pyrochlore