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Accurate neutron powder diffraction experiments at D20, ILL Grenoble, allowed to monitor the reconstructive tetragonal to monoclinic phase transition as a function of the size of zirconia nanoparticles. In the nanocrystals, both phases are identical to the ones generally observed in micrometric zirconia. Rietveld refinements on these samples point out an increase of the tetragonal fraction and a decrease of the lattice parameters when the size of the particle decreases. An uniaxial strain depending on the grain size is also observed. The phase transition definitely occurs above a threshold crystal size. These results are analysed within the Landau theory and they can be understood as a mechanism of size-dependent phase transition where the primary order parameter is altered by the nanoparticle size.
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