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Structural evolution in functional materials is a physicochemical phenomenon, which is important from a fundamental study point of view and for its applications in magnetism, catalysis, and nuclear waste immobilization. In this study, we used x-ray diffraction and Raman spectroscopy to examine the Gd2Hf2O7 (GHO) pyrochlore, and we showed that it underwent a thermally induced crystalline phase evolution. Superconducting quantum interference device measurements were carried out on both the weakly ordered pyrochlore and the fully ordered phases. These measurements suggest a weak magnetism for both pyrochlore phases. Spin density calculations showed that the Gd3+ ion has a major contribution to the fully ordered pyrochlore magnetic behavior and its cation antisite. The origin of the Gd magnetism is due to the concomitant shift of its spin-up 4f orbital states above the Fermi energy and its spin-down states below the Fermi energy. This picture is in contrast to the familiar Stoner model used in magnetism. The ordered pyrochlore GHO is antiferromagnetic, whereas its antisite is ferromagnetic. The localization of the Gd-4f orbitals is also indicative of weak magnetism. Chemical bonding was analyzed via overlap population calculations: These analyses indicate that Hf-Gd and Gd-O covalent interactions are destabilizing, and thus, the stabilities of these bonds are due to ionic interactions. Our combined experimental and computational analyses on the technologically important pyrochlore materials provide a basic understanding of their structure, bonding properties, and magnetic behaviors.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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