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Topological constraint theory (TCT) has revealed itself to be a powerful tool in interpreting the behaviors of amorphous solids. The theory predicts a transition between a “rigid” overconstrained network and a “floppy” underconstrained network as a function of connectivity or average coordination number, 〈r〉. The predicted results have been shown experimentally for various glassy materials, the majority of these being based on 4-fold-coordinate networks such as chalcogenide and oxide glasses. Here, we demonstrate the broader applicability of topological constraint theory to uniquely coordinated amorphous hydrogenated boron carbide (a-BC:H), based on 6-fold-coordinate boron atoms arranged into partially hydrogenated interconnected 12-vertex icosahedra. We have produced a substantial set of plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposited a-BC:H films with a large range of densities and network coordination, and demonstrate a clear threshold in Young's modulus as a function of 〈r〉, ascribed to a rigidity transition. We investigate constraint counting strategies in this material and show that by treating icosahedra as “superatoms,” a rigidity transition is observed within the range of the theoretically predicted 〈rc value of 2.4 for covalent solids with bond-stretching and bond-bending forces. This experimental data set for a-BC:H is unique in that it represents a uniform change in connectivity with 〈r〉 and demonstrates a distinct rigidity transition with data points both above and below the transition threshold. Finally, we discuss how TCT can be applied to explain and optimize mechanical and dielectric properties in a-BC:H and related materials in the context of microelectronics applications.


This is the Publisher’s PDF of the following article made available by Frontiers in Materials: Nordell Bradley J., Nguyen Thuong D., Caruso Anthony N., Lanford William A., Henry Patrick, Li Han, Ross Liza L., King Sean W., Paquette Michelle M. Topological Constraint Theory Analysis of Rigidity Transition in Highly Coordinate Amorphous Hydrogenated Boron Carbide

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