Sol-gel chemistry, while being extremely established, is to this day not fully understood, and much of the underlying chemistry and mechanisms are yet to be unraveled. Here, we elaborate on the sol-gel chemistry of Cr2GaC, the first layered ternary carbide belonging to the MAX phase family to ever be synthesized using this wet chemical approach. Leveraging a variety of both in- and ex situ characterization techniques, including X-ray and neutron powder diffraction, X-ray absorption fine structure analyses, total scattering analyses, and differential scanning calorimetry coupled with mass spectrometry, in-depth analyses of the local structures and reaction pathways are elucidated. While the metals first form tetrahedrally and octahedrally coordinated oxidic structures, that subsequently grow and crystallize into oxides, the carbon source citric acid sits on a separate reaction pathway, that does not merge with the metals until the very end. In fact, after decomposing it remains nanostructured and disordered graphite until the temperature allows for the reduction of the metal oxides into the layered carbide. Based on this, we hypothesize that the method is mostly applicable to systems where the needed metals are reducible by graphite around the formation temperature of the target phase.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Inorganic Chemistry