Crystallochemical Design of Huntite-Family Compounds
Huntite-family nominally-pure and activated/co-activated LnM3(BO3)4 (Ln = La–Lu, Y; M = Al, Fe, Cr, Ga, Sc) compounds and their-based solid solutions are promising materials for lasers, nonlinear optics, spintronics, and photonics, which are characterized by multifunctional properties depending on a composition and crystal structure. The purpose of the work is to establish stability regions for the rare-earth orthoborates in crystallochemical coordinates (sizes of Ln and M ions) based on their real compositions and space symmetry depending on thermodynamic, kinetic, and crystallochemical factors. The use of diffraction structural techniques to study
single crystals with a detailed analysis of diffraction patterns, refinement of crystallographic site occupancies (real composition), and determination of structure–composition correlations is the most efficient and effective option to achieve the purpose. This approach is applied and shown primarily for the rare-earth scandium borates having interesting structural features compared with the other orthoborates. Visualization of structures allowed to establish features of formation of phases with different compositions, to classify and systematize huntite-family compounds using crystallochemical concepts (structure and superstructure, ordering and disordering, isostructural and isotype compounds) and phenomena (isomorphism, morphotropism, polymorphism, polytypism). Particular attention is paid to methods and conditions for crystal growth, affecting a crystal real composition and symmetry. A critical analysis of literature data made it possible to formulate unsolved problems in materials science of rare-earth orthoborates, mainly scandium borates, which are distinguished by an ability to form internal and substitutional (Ln and Sc atoms), unlimited and limited solid solutions depending on the geometric factor.