Ubiquitous on Earth, α-quartz plays an important role in modern science and technology. However, despite extensive research in the past, the mechanism of the polymorphic transitions of α-quartz at high pressures remains poorly understood. Here, combining in situ single-crystal x-ray diffraction experiment and advanced ab initio modeling, we report two stability limits and competing transition pathways of α-quartz under high pressure. Under near-equilibrium compression conditions at room temperature, α-quartz transits to a new P2/c silica phase via a structural intermediate. If the thermally activated transition is kinetically suppressed, the ultimate stability of α-quartz is controlled by its phonon instability and α-quartz collapses into a different crystalline phase. Our studies reveal that pressure-induced solid-state transformation of α-quartz undergoes a succession of structural stability limits, due to thermodynamic and mechanical catastrophes, and exhibits a hierarchy of transition pathways contingent upon kinetic conditions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics