Effects of carbon vacancies on the structures, mechanical properties, and chemical bonding of zirconium carbides: a first-principles study
By using evolutionary algorithm USPEX, we have predicted a number of stable zirconium carbides. In addition to the well-known rocksalt-type stoichiometric ZrC (Fm-3m), present prediction also identifies five stable substoichiometric zirconium carbides adopting rocksalt-type structures with ordered carbon vacancies, Zr8C7 (P-1), Zr6C5 (C2/m), Zr5C4 (P-1), Zr3C2 (C2/m), and Zr2C (Fd-3m). The effects of carbon vacancies on structural and mechanical properties are investigated. We highlight that the distribution of carbon vacancies has significant influence on volume, Pugh's ratio, and hardness. We further propose that hardness can be enhanced by replacing carbon vacancies with suitable elements, in particular nitrogen and oxygen.