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Symmetry-general least-squares extraction of elastic data for strained materials from ab initio calculations of stress

Yvon Le Page, Paul Saxe
Physical Review B Condensed Matter 65, 104104 (2002)

A symmetry-general approach for the least-squares, therefore precise, extraction of elastic coefficients for strained materials is reported. It analyzes stresses calculated ab initio for properly selected strains. The problem, its implementation, and its solution strategy all differ radically from a previous energy-strain approach that we published last year, but the normal equations turn out to be amenable to the same constrainment scheme that makes both approaches symmetry general. The symmetry considerations governing the automated selection of appropriately strained models and their Cartesian systems are detailed. The extension to materials under general stress is discussed and implemented. VASP was used for ab initio calculation of stresses. A comprehensive range of examples includes a triclinic material (kyanite) and simple materials with a range of symmetries at zero pressure, MgO under hydrostatic pressure, Ti₄As₃ under [001] uniaxial strain, and Si under [001] uniaxial stress. The MgO case agrees with recent experimental work including elastic coefficients as well as their first and second derivatives. The curves of elastic coefficients for Si show a gradual increase in the 33 compliance coefficient, leading to a collapse of the material at -11.7 GPa, compared with -12.0 GPa experimentally. Interpretation of results for Be using two approximations [local density (LDA), generalized gradient (GGA)], two approaches (stress strain and energy strain), two potential types (projector augmented wave and ultrasoft), and two quantum engines (VASP and ORESTES) expose the utmost importance of the cell data used for the elastic calculations and the lesser importance of the other factors. For stiffness at relaxed cell data, differences are shown to originate mostly in the considerable overestimation of the residual compressive stresses at x-ray cell data by LDA, resulting in a smaller relaxed cell, thus larger values for diagonal stiffness coefficients. The symmetry generality of the approach described here enabled the creation of a robust user interface going seamlessly from the database search to the printout of the elastic coefficients. With it, even nonspecialist users can reliably produce technologically relevant results like those discussed here in a simple point-and-click fashion from corresponding entries in the CRYSTMET® and ICSD® structure databases, i.e., for all pure-phase nonorganic materials with known crystal structure. The case of Ti4 As3 exposes, on a first cluster of properties, stiffness, compliance, and the isotropic properties that can be derived from them, the current reality of mining crystal structure databases with ab initio software for technological properties that were never measured before. Further developments in that direction are currently underway.