Topotactically transformable antiphase boundaries with enhanced ionic conductivity

Nat Commun. 2023 Nov 15;14(1):7382. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-43086-5.

Abstract

Engineering lattice defects have emerged as a promising approach to effectively modulate the functionality of devices. Particularly, antiphase boundaries (APBs) as planar defects have been considered major obstacles to optimizing the ionic conductivity of mixed ionic-electronic conductors (MIECs) in solid oxide fuel applications. Here our study identifies topotactically transformable APBs (tt-APBs) at the atomic level and demonstrates that they exhibit higher ionic conductivity at elevated temperatures as compared to perfect domains. In-situ observation at the atomic scale tracks dynamic oxygen migration across these tt-APBs, where the abundant interstitial sites between tetrahedrons facilitate the ionic migration. Furthermore, annealing in an oxidized atmosphere can lead to the formation of interstitial oxygen at these APBs. These pieces of evidence clearly clarify that the tt-APBs can contribute to oxygen conductivity as anion diffusion channels, while the topotactically non-transformable APBs cannot. The topotactic transformability opens the way of defect engineering strategies for improving ionic transportation in MIECs.