Physical chemistry

Large Melting-Point Hysteresis of Ge Nanocrystals Embedded in SiO2

Abstract: The melting behavior of Ge nanocrystals embedded within SiO2 is evaluated using in situ transmission electron microscopy. The observed melting-point hysteresis is large (±17%) and nearly symmetric about the bulk melting point. This hysteresis is modeled successfully using classical nucleation theory without the need to invoke epitaxy.

Large Melting-Point Hysteresis of Ge Nanocrystals Embedded in SiO2, Xu, Q., Sharp I. D., Yuan C. W., Yi D. O., Liao C. Y., Glaeser A. M., Minor A. M., Beeman J. W., Ridgway M. C., Kluth P., et al. , Physical Review Letters, Volume 97, Number 15, p.155701, (2006)

Superconductivity in diamond

Abstract: Diamond is an electrical insulator well known for its exceptional hardness. It also conducts heat even more effectively than copper, and can withstand very high electric fields. With these physical properties, diamond is attractive for electronic applications, particularly when charge carriers are introduced (by chemical doping) into the system. Boron has one less electron than carbon and, because of its small atomic radius, boron is relatively easily incorporated into diamond; as boron acts as a charge acceptor, the resulting diamond is effectively hole-doped. Here we report the discovery of superconductivity in boron-doped diamond synthesized at high pressure (nearly 100,000 atmospheres) and temperature (2,500–2,800 K). Electrical resistivity, magnetic susceptibility, specific heat and field-dependent resistance measurements show that boron-doped diamond is a bulk, type-II superconductor below the superconducting transition temperature Tc about 4 K; superconductivity survives in a magnetic field up to Hc2(0) 3.5 T. The discovery of superconductivity in diamond-structured carbon suggests that Si and Ge, which also form in the diamond structure, may similarly exhibit superconductivity under the appropriate conditions.

Superconductivity in diamond, Ekimov, E. A., Sidorov V. A., Bauer E. D., Mel'nik N. N., Curro N. J., Thompson J. D., and Stishov S. M. , Nature, 4/2004, Volume 428, Issue 6982, p.542 - 545, (2004)

Probable observation of a supersolid helium phase

Abstract: When liquid 4He is cooled below 2.176 K, it undergoes a phase transition—Bose–Einstein condensation—and becomes a super- fluid with zero viscosity. Once in such a state, it can flow without dissipation even through pores of atomic dimensions. Although it is intuitive to associate superflow only with the liquid phase, it has been proposed theoretically that superflow can also occur in the solid phase of 4He. Owing to quantum mechanical fluctuations, delocalized vacancies and defects are expected to be present in crystalline solid 4He, even in the limit of zero temperature. These zero-point vacancies can in principle allow the appearance of superfluidity in the solid. However, in spite of many attempts, such a 'supersolid' phase has yet to be observed in bulk solid 4He. Here we report torsional oscillator measurements on solid helium confined in a porous medium, a configuration that is likely to be more heavily populated with vacancies than bulk helium. We find an abrupt drop in the rotational inertia5 of the confined solid below a certain critical temperature. The most likely interpretation of the inertia drop is entry into the supersolid phase. If confirmed, our results show that all three states of matter—gas, liquid and solid—can undergo Bose–Einstein condensation.

Probable observation of a supersolid helium phase, Kim, E., and Chan M. H. W. , Nature, 1/2004, Volume 427, Issue 6971, p.225 - 227, (2004)

Germanium nanocrystals melt 200°C higher in glass than in bulk

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, USA, have discovered that nanocrystals of germanium embedded in silica glass don't melt until the temperature rises almost 200 degrees Kelvin above the melting temperature of germanium in bulk. What's even more surprising, these melted nanocrystals have to be cooled more than 200 K below the bulk melting point before they resolidify. Such a large and nearly symmetrical "hysteresis" -- the divergence of melting and freezing temperatures above and below the bulk melting point -- has never before been observed for embedded nanoparticles.

"Melting and freezing points for materials in bulk have been well understood for a long time," says Eugene Haller (one of the authors) , "but whenever an embedded nanoparticle's melting point goes up instead of down, it requires an explanation. With our observations of germanium in amorphous silica and the application of a classical thermodynamic theory that successfully explains and predicts these observations, we've made a good start on a general explanation of what have until now been regarded as anomalous events."

The research was conducted because the properties of germanium nanoparticles embedded in amorphous silicon dioxide matrices have promising applications. "Germanium nanocrystals in silica have the ability to accept charge and hold it stably for long periods, a property which can be used in improved computer memory systems. Moreover, germanium dioxide (germania) mixed with silicon dioxide (silica) offers particular advantages for forming optical fibers for long-distance communication."1

Helium supersolids?

In a letter to Nature E. Kim and M. H. W. Chan (Pennsylvania State University, USA) note that when liquid 4He is cooled below 2.176 K, it undergoes a phase transition and becomes a superfluid with zero viscosity. They claim that in addition to superflow in the liquid phase, superflow can also occur under some conditions in the solid phase of one of the helium isotopes (4He), and present results to back this up. In other words - evidence for a "supersolid". A supersolid behaves like a superfluid (flows without resistance) although it has crystalline solid characteristics.1

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