Accurate Prediction of Defect Properties in Density Functional Supercell Calculations

Stephan Lany, Alex Zunger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

330 Scopus Citations


The theoretical description of defects and impurities in semiconductors is largely based on density functional theory (DFT) employing supercell models. The literature discussion of uncertainties that limit the predictivity of this approach has focused mostly on two issues: (1) finite-size effects, in particular for charged defects; (2) the band-gap problem in local or semi-local DFT approximations. We here describe how finite-size effects (1) in the formation energy of charged defects can be accurately corrected in a simple way, i.e. by potential alignment in conjunction with a scaling of the Madelung-like screened first order correction term. The factor involved with this scaling depends only on the dielectric constant and the shape of the supercell, and quite accurately accounts for the full third order correction according to Makov and Payne. We further discuss in some detail the background and justification for this correction method, and also address the effect of the ionic screening on the magnitude of the image charge energy. In regard to (2) the band-gap problem, we discuss the merits of non-local external potentials that are added to the DFT Hamiltonian and allow for an empirical band-gap correction without significantly increasing the computational demand over that of standard DFT calculations. In combination with LDA + U, these potentials are further instrumental for the prediction of polaronic defects with localized holes in anion-p orbitals, such as the metal-site acceptors in wide-gap oxide semiconductors.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number084002
Number of pages14
JournalModelling and Simulation in Materials Science and Engineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2009

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-590-46943


  • basic sciences
  • materials science


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