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First Principles Based Multiparadigm Modeling of Electronic Structures and Dynamics


Xiao, Hai (2015) First Principles Based Multiparadigm Modeling of Electronic Structures and Dynamics. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z94747T1.


Electronic structures and dynamics are the key to linking the material composition and structure to functionality and performance.

An essential issue in developing semiconductor devices for photovoltaics is to design materials with optimal band gaps and relative positioning of band levels. Approximate DFT methods have been justified to predict band gaps from KS/GKS eigenvalues, but the accuracy is decisively dependent on the choice of XC functionals. We show here for CuInSe2 and CuGaSe2, the parent compounds of the promising CIGS solar cells, conventional LDA and GGA obtain gaps of 0.0-0.01 and 0.02-0.24 eV (versus experimental values of 1.04 and 1.67 eV), while the historically first global hybrid functional, B3PW91, is surprisingly the best, with band gaps of 1.07 and 1.58 eV. Furthermore, we show that for 27 related binary and ternary semiconductors, B3PW91 predicts gaps with a MAD of only 0.09 eV, which is substantially better than all modern hybrid functionals, including B3LYP (MAD of 0.19 eV) and screened hybrid functional HSE06 (MAD of 0.18 eV).

The laboratory performance of CIGS solar cells (> 20% efficiency) makes them promising candidate photovoltaic devices. However, there remains little understanding of how defects at the CIGS/CdS interface affect the band offsets and interfacial energies, and hence the performance of manufactured devices. To determine these relationships, we use the B3PW91 hybrid functional of DFT with the AEP method that we validate to provide very accurate descriptions of both band gaps and band offsets. This confirms the weak dependence of band offsets on surface orientation observed experimentally. We predict that the CBO of perfect CuInSe2/CdS interface is large, 0.79 eV, which would dramatically degrade performance. Moreover we show that band gap widening induced by Ga adjusts only the VBO, and we find that Cd impurities do not significantly affect the CBO. Thus we show that Cu vacancies at the interface play the key role in enabling the tunability of CBO. We predict that Na further improves the CBO through electrostatically elevating the valence levels to decrease the CBO, explaining the observed essential role of Na for high performance. Moreover we find that K leads to a dramatic decrease in the CBO to 0.05 eV, much better than Na. We suggest that the efficiency of CIGS devices might be improved substantially by tuning the ratio of Na to K, with the improved phase stability of Na balancing phase instability from K. All these defects reduce interfacial stability slightly, but not significantly.

A number of exotic structures have been formed through high pressure chemistry, but applications have been hindered by difficulties in recovering the high pressure phase to ambient conditions (i.e., one atmosphere and room temperature). Here we use dispersion-corrected DFT (PBE-ulg flavor) to predict that above 60 GPa the most stable form of N2O (the laughing gas in its molecular form) is a 1D polymer with an all-nitrogen backbone analogous to cis-polyacetylene in which alternate N are bonded (ionic covalent) to O. The analogous trans-polymer is only 0.03-0.10 eV/molecular unit less stable. Upon relaxation to ambient conditions both polymers relax below 14 GPa to the same stable non-planar trans-polymer, accompanied by possible electronic structure transitions. The predicted phonon spectrum and dissociation kinetics validate the stability of this trans-poly-NNO at ambient conditions, which has potential applications as a new type of conducting polymer with all-nitrogen chains and as a high-energy oxidizer for rocket propulsion. This work illustrates in silico materials discovery particularly in the realm of extreme conditions.

Modeling non-adiabatic electron dynamics has been a long-standing challenge for computational chemistry and materials science, and the eFF method presents a cost-efficient alternative. However, due to the deficiency of FSG representation, eFF is limited to low-Z elements with electrons of predominant s-character. To overcome this, we introduce a formal set of ECP extensions that enable accurate description of p-block elements. The extensions consist of a model representing the core electrons with the nucleus as a single pseudo particle represented by FSG, interacting with valence electrons through ECPs. We demonstrate and validate the ECP extensions for complex bonding structures, geometries, and energetics of systems with p-block character (C, O, Al, Si) and apply them to study materials under extreme mechanical loading conditions.

Despite its success, the eFF framework has some limitations, originated from both the design of Pauli potentials and the FSG representation. To overcome these, we develop a new framework of two-level hierarchy that is a more rigorous and accurate successor to the eFF method. The fundamental level, GHA-QM, is based on a new set of Pauli potentials that renders exact QM level of accuracy for any FSG represented electron systems. To achieve this, we start with using exactly derived energy expressions for the same spin electron pair, and fitting a simple functional form, inspired by DFT, against open singlet electron pair curves (H2 systems). Symmetric and asymmetric scaling factors are then introduced at this level to recover the QM total energies of multiple electron pair systems from the sum of local interactions. To complement the imperfect FSG representation, the AMPERE extension is implemented, and aims at embedding the interactions associated with both the cusp condition and explicit nodal structures. The whole GHA-QM+AMPERE framework is tested on H element, and the preliminary results are promising.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:DFT; fundamental bandgaps of semiconductors; CIGS solar cell interfaces; high pressure chemistry; NNO polymers; eFF-ECP; GHA-QM with AMPERE
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemistry
Minor Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Goddard, William A., III
Group:Materials and Process Simulation Center
Thesis Committee:
  • Gray, Harry B. (chair)
  • Goddard, William A., III
  • Marcus, Rudolph A.
  • Lewis, Nathan Saul
Defense Date:15 January 2015
Non-Caltech Author Email:haixiao.caltech (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03202015-113328412
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for ch. 2 adapted for ch. 3 adapted for ch. 4 adapted for ch. 5
Xiao, Hai0000-0001-9399-1584
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8798
Deposited By: Hai Xiao
Deposited On:07 Oct 2015 23:14
Last Modified:02 Oct 2017 19:43

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