The synthesis of nanocrystalline powders of zirconia often produces the tetragonal phase, which for coarse-grained powders is stable only at high temperatures and transforms into the monoclinic form on cooling. This stability reversal has been suggested to be due to differences in the surface energies of the monoclinic and tetragonal polymorphs. In the present study, we have used high-temperature oxide melt solution calorimetry to test this hypothesis directly. We measured the excess enthalpies of nanocrystalline tetragonal, monoclinic, and amorphous zirconia. Monoclinic ZrO2 was found to have the largest surface enthalpy and amorphous zirconia the smallest. Stability crossovers with increasing surface area between monoclinic, tetragonal, and amorphous zirconia were confirmed. The surface enthalpy of amorphous zirconia was estimated to be 0.5 J/m2. The linear fit of excess enthalpies for nanocrystalline zirconia, as a function of area from nitrogen adsorption (BET) gave apparent surface enthalpies of 6.4 and 2.1 J/m2, for the monoclinic and tetragonal polymorphs, respectively. Due to aggregation, the surface areas calculated from crystallite size are larger than those measured by BET. The fit of enthalpy versus calculated total interface/surface area gave surface enthalpies of 4.2 J/m2 for the monoclinic form and 0.9 J/m2 for the tetragonal polymorph. From solution calorimetry, the enthalpy of the monoclinic to tetragonal phase transition for ZrO2 was estimated to be 10±1 kJ/mol and amorphization enthalpy to be 34±2 kJ/mol.
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