Mechanochemical Synthesis and Spark Plasma Sintering of the Cerium Silicides

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The cerium silicides, Ce5Si3, Ce3Si2, CeSi, CeSi2−y, and CeSi2−x, have been prepared from the elements by mechanochemical processing in a planetary ball mill. Preparation of the cerium silicide Ce5Si4 was unsuccessfully attempted and potential reasons for this are discussed. Temperature and pressure of the milling vial were monitored in situ to gain insight into the mechanochemical reaction kinetics, which include a mechanically-induced self-propagating reaction (MSR). Some prepared powders were consolidated by spark plasma sintering to high density. Starting materials, as-milled powders, and consolidated samples were characterized by X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, and energy dispersive spectroscopy. The results obtained help elucidate key questions in mechanochemical processing of intermetallics, showing first phase formation similar to thin films, MSR ignition times that are composition- and milling speed-dependent, and sensitivity of stable compound formation on the impact pressure. The results demonstrate mechanochemical synthesis as a viable technique for rare earth silicides.