Instability of Rock-Salt Cubic NbN in Density Functional Calculations

Research output: NRELPresentation


All-nitride semiconductor/superconductor heterojunctions utilizing cubic niobium nitride (NbN) are a promising approach to superconducting quantum circuits for next-generation quantum-information systems. However, there are fundamental open questions on the atomic structure of NbN. In calculations with several levels of density functional theory (DFT), we find that the cubic rocksalt structure NbN (Fm-3m, 225) is energetically very unstable against the ground state hexagonal NbN in a tungsten carbide (P-6m2, 187) type lattice. To better understand the appearance of a cubic phase in numerous experiments, we perform a DFT study on possible NbN structures, determining the energy ordering between different polymorphs from databases and structure prediction. We perform supercell calculations of disordered NbN, finding that the rocksalt structure is dynamically unstable and relaxes to a lower energy monoclinic phase (C2/m, 12), which retains an approximate average cubic symmetry. However, the associated energy gain is not substantial enough for a plausible explanation for cubic NbN. We further investigate the role of external factors such as in-plane strain during epitaxial growth as well as the presence of off-stoichiometry and impurity doping on the energy ordering.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the American Physical Society March Meeting, 14-18 March 2022, Chicago, Illinois

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5K00-82403


  • density functional theory
  • nitrides
  • superconducting


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