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Advanced Density Functional Theory Methods tor Materials Science


Demers, Steven Brian (2014) Advanced Density Functional Theory Methods tor Materials Science. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/KNJR-6F80.


In this work we chiefly deal with two broad classes of problems in computational materials science, determining the doping mechanism in a semiconductor and developing an extreme condition equation of state. While solving certain aspects of these questions is well-trodden ground, both require extending the reach of existing methods to fully answer them. Here we choose to build upon the framework of density functional theory (DFT) which provides an efficient means to investigate a system from a quantum mechanics description.

Zinc Phosphide (Zn3P2) could be the basis for cheap and highly efficient solar cells. Its use in this regard is limited by the difficulty in n-type doping the material. In an effort to understand the mechanism behind this, the energetics and electronic structure of intrinsic point defects in zinc phosphide are studied using generalized Kohn-Sham theory and utilizing the Heyd, Scuseria, and Ernzerhof (HSE) hybrid functional for exchange and correlation. Novel 'perturbation extrapolation' is utilized to extend the use of the computationally expensive HSE functional to this large-scale defect system. According to calculations, the formation energy of charged phosphorus interstitial defects are very low in n-type Zn3P2 and act as 'electron sinks', nullifying the desired doping and lowering the fermi-level back towards the p-type regime. Going forward, this insight provides clues to fabricating useful zinc phosphide based devices. In addition, the methodology developed for this work can be applied to further doping studies in other systems.

Accurate determination of high pressure and temperature equations of state is fundamental in a variety of fields. However, it is often very difficult to cover a wide range of temperatures and pressures in an laboratory setting. Here we develop methods to determine a multi-phase equation of state for Ta through computation. The typical means of investigating thermodynamic properties is via ’classical’ molecular dynamics where the atomic motion is calculated from Newtonian mechanics with the electronic effects abstracted away into an interatomic potential function. For our purposes, a ’first principles’ approach such as DFT is useful as a classical potential is typically valid for only a portion of the phase diagram (i.e. whatever part it has been fit to). Furthermore, for extremes of temperature and pressure quantum effects become critical to accurately capture an equation of state and are very hard to capture in even complex model potentials. This requires extending the inherently zero temperature DFT to predict the finite temperature response of the system. Statistical modelling and thermodynamic integration is used to extend our results over all phases, as well as phase-coexistence regions which are at the limits of typical DFT validity. We deliver the most comprehensive and accurate equation of state that has been done for Ta. This work also lends insights that can be applied to further equation of state work in many other materials.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Density Functional Theory; Photovoltaics; Defects; Equation of State; Tantalum; Zinc Phosphide; Perturbation Theory
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Materials Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • van de Walle, Axel
Thesis Committee:
  • Fultz, Brent T. (chair)
  • Greer, Julia R.
  • Snyder, G. Jeffrey
  • van de Walle, Axel
Defense Date:25 November 2013
Non-Caltech Author Email:steved (AT)
Additional Information:Thesis title in 2014 Commencement program varies: Advanced Density Functional Theory Methods tor Materials Science Applications
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06032014-224426152
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8476
Deposited By: Steven Demers
Deposited On:05 Jun 2014 20:37
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:05

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