Nanoscale oxidation and complex oxide growth on single crystal iron surfaces and external electric field effects

Byoungseon Jeon, Quentin Van Overmeere, Adri C.T. Van Duin, Shriram Ramanathan

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39 Scopus citations


Oxidation of iron surfaces and oxide growth mechanisms have been studied using reactive molecular dynamics. Oxide growth kinetics on Fe(100), (110), and (111) surface orientations has been investigated at various temperatures and/or an external electric field. The oxide growth kinetics decreases in the order of (110), (111), and (100) surfaces at 300 K over 1 ns timescale while higher temperature increases the oxidation rate. The oxidation rate shows a transition after an initial high rate, implying that the oxide formation mechanism evolves, with iron cation re-ordering. In early stages of surface oxide growth, oxygen transport through iron interstitial sites is dominant, yielding non-stoichiometric wüstite characteristics. The dominant oxygen inward transport decreases as the oxide thickens, evolving into more stoichiometric oxide phases such as wüstite or hematite. This also suggests that cation outward transport increases correspondingly. In addition to oxidation kinetics simulations, formed oxide layers have been relaxed in the range of 600-1500 K to investigate diffusion characteristics, fitting these results into an Arrhenius relation. The activation energy of oxygen diffusion in oxide layers formed on Fe(100), (110), and (111) surfaces was estimated to be 0.32, 0.26, and 0.28 eV, respectively. Comparison between our modeling results and literature data is then discussed. An external electric field (10 MV cm-1) facilitates initial oxidation kinetics by promoting oxygen transport through iron lattice interstitial sites, but reaches self-limiting thickness, showing that similar oxide formation stages are maintained when cation transport increases. The effect of the external electric field on iron oxide structure, composition, and oxide activation energy is found to be minimal, whereas cation outward migration is slightly promoted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1821-1830
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 14 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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