Is Cu3-xP a Semiconductor, a Metal, or a Semimetal? arXiv:2210.16686 [cond-mat.mtrl-sci]

Andrea Crovetto, Thomas Unold, Andriy Zakutayev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Despite the recent surge in interest in Cu3-xP for catalysis, batteries, and plasmonics, the electronic nature of Cu3-xP remains unclear. Some studies have shown evidence of semiconducting behavior, whereas others have argued that Cu3-xP is a metallic compound. Here, we attempt to resolve this dilemma on the basis of combinatorial thin-film experiments, electronic structure calculations, and semiclassical Boltzmann transport theory. We find strong evidence that stoichiometric, defect-free Cu3P is an intrinsic semimetal, i.e., a material with a small overlap between the valence and the conduction band. On the other hand, experimentally realizable Cu3-xP films are always p-type semimetals natively doped by copper vacancies regardless of x. It is not implausible that Cu3-xP samples with very small characteristic sizes (such as small nanoparticles) are semiconductors due to quantum confinement effects that result in opening of a band gap. We observe high hole mobilities (276 cm2/Vs) in Cu3-xP films at low temperatures, pointing to low ionized impurity scattering rates in spite of a high doping density. We report an optical effect equivalent to the Burstein-Moss shift, and we assign an infrared absorption peak to bulk interband transitions rather than to a surface plasmon resonance. From a materials processing perspective, this study demonstrates the suitability of reactive sputter deposition for detailed high-throughput studies of emerging metal phosphides.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages27
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

See NREL/JA-5K00-85353 for paper as published in Chemistry of Materials

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-84779


  • Cu3-xP
  • electronic structure
  • semiconductors
  • semimetal


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