Monte Carlo Simulations of Disorder in ZnSnN2 and the Effects on the Electronic Structure

Stephan Lany, Angela N. Fioretti, Paweł P. Zawadzki, Laura T. Schelhas, Eric S. Toberer, Andriy Zakutayev, Adele C. Tamboli

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In multinary compound semiconductors, cation disorder can decisively alter the electronic properties and impact potential applications. ZnSnN2 is a ternary nitride of interest for photovoltaics, which forms in a wurtzite-derived crystal structure. In the ground state, every N anion is coordinated by two Zn and two Sn cations, thereby observing the octet rule locally. Using a motif-based model Hamiltonian, we performed Monte Carlo simulations that provide atomistic representations of ZnSnN2 with varying degrees of cation disorder. Subsequent electronic structure calculations describe the evolution of band gaps, optical properties, and carrier localization effects as a function of the disorder. We find that octet-rule conserving disorder is practically impossible to avoid but perfectly benign, with hardly any effects on the electronic structure. In contrast, a fully random cation distribution would be very detrimental, but fortunately it is energetically highly unfavorable. A degree of disorder that can realistically be expected for nonequilibrium thin-film deposition leads to a moderate band-gap reduction and to moderate carrier localization effects. Comparing the simulated structures with experimental samples grown by sputtering, we find evidence that these samples indeed incorporate a certain degree of octet-rule violating disorder, which is reflected in the x-ray diffraction and in the optical absorption spectra. This study demonstrates that the electronic properties of ZnSnN2 are dominated by changes of the local coordination environments rather than long-range ordering effects.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number035401
Number of pages7
JournalPhysical Review Materials
Issue number3
StatePublished - 10 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Physical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-68918


  • electronic structure
  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • photovoltaics


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