Local structure and vibrational dynamics in indium-doped barium zirconate
Barium zirconate (BaZrO3), when substituted with trivalent acceptor ions to replace Zr4+, is a proton conducting material of interest for several electrochemical applications. The local coordination environments, and vibrational dynamics, of the protons are known to critically influence the material's proton conducting properties, however, the nature of the static and dynamic structure around the protons and, especially, how it is affected by the dopant atoms for high doping concentrations, remains to be elucidated. Here we report results from X-ray powder diffraction, infrared (IR) spectroscopy, inelastic neutron scattering (INS) and ab initio molecular dynamics (AIMD) simulations on a hydrated sample of BaZrO3 substituted with 50% In3+. The investigation of the momentum-transfer (Q) dependence of the INS spectrum is used to aid the analysis of the spectra and the assignment of the spectral components to fundamental O–H bend and O–H stretch modes and higher-order transitions. The AIMD simulations show that the INS spectrum is constituted of the overlapping spectra of protons in several different local structural environments, whereas the local proton environments for specific protons are found to vary with time as a result of thermally activated vibrations of the perovskite lattice. It is argued that, converse to more weakly doped systems, such as 20% Y-doped BaZrO3, the dopant–proton association effect does not hinder the diffusion of protons due to the presence of percolation paths of dopant atoms throughout the perovskite lattice.
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