A model for the thermodynamic stability of amorphous silicon oxycarbide (SiCO) is presented. It builds upon the reasonably accepted model of SiCO which is conceived as a nanodomain network of graphene. The domains are expected to be filled with SiO2 molecules, while the interface with graphene is visualized to contain mixed bonds described as Si bonded to C as well as to O atoms. Normally these SiCO compositions would be expected to crystallize. Instead, calorimetric measurements have shown that the amorphous phase is thermodynamically stable. In this article we employ first-principles calculations to estimate how the interfacial energy of the graphene networks is favorably influenced by having mixed bonds attached to them. We analyze the ways in which this reduction in interfacial energy can stabilize the amorphous phase. The approach highlights how density functional theory computations can be combined with the classical analysis of phase transformations to explain the behavior of a complex material. In addition we discover a two-dimensional lattice structure, with the composition Si2C4O3 that is constructed from a single layer of graphene congruent with silicon and oxygen bonds on either side.
Yu, Liping and Raj, Rishi, "On the thermodynamically stable amorphous phase of polymer-derived silicon oxycarbide." (2015). University Libraries Open Access Fund Supported Publications. 60.