The free energy of mechanically unstable phases

A. Van De Walle, Q. Hong, S. Kadkhodaei, R. Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Phase diagrams provide 'roadmaps' to the possible states of matter. Their determination traditionally rests on the assumption that all phases, even unstable ones, have well-defined free energies under all conditions. However, this assumption is commonly violated in condensed phases due to mechanical instabilities. This long-standing problem impedes thermodynamic database development, as pragmatic attempts at solving this problem involve delicate extrapolations that are highly nonunique and that lack an underlying theoretical justification. Here we propose an efficient computational solution to this problem that has a simple interpretation, both as a topological partitioning of atomic configuration space and as a minimally constrained physical system. Our natural scheme smoothly extends the free energy of stable phases, without relying on extrapolation, thus enabling a formal assessment of widely used extrapolation schemes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7559
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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