Computational design of novel hydrogen-doped, oxygen-deficient monoclinic zirconia with excellent optical absorption and electronic properties

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Physics Department

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Physics Department

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Sarah A. Tolba; Nageh K. Allam

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Research Article

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Scientific Reports

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Monoclinic ZrO2 has recently emerged as a new highly efficient material for the photovoltaic and photocatalytic applications. Herein, first-principles calculations were carried out to understand how Hydrogen doping can affect the electronic structure and optical properties of the material. The effects of Hydrogen interstitial and substitutional doping at different sites and concentrations in m-ZrO2 were examined by an extensive model study to predict the best structure with the optimal properties for use in solar energy conversion devices. Hydrogen interstitials (Hi) in pristine m-ZrO2 were found to lower the formation energy but without useful effects on the electronic or optical properties. Hydrogen mono- and co-occupying oxygen vacancy (Ov) were also investigated. At low concentration of Hydrogen mono-occupying oxygen vacancy (HOv), Hydrogen atoms introduced shallow states below the conduction band minimum (CBM) and increase the dielectric constant, which could be very useful for gate dielectric application. The number and position of such defect states strongly depend on the doping sites and concentration. At high oxygen vacancy concentration, the modeled HOv-Ov structure shows the formation of shallow and localized states that are only 1.1 eV below the CBM with significantly high dielectric constant and extended optical absorption to the infrared region. This strong absorption with the high permittivity and low exciton binding energies make the material an ideal candidate for use in solar energy harvesting devices. Finally, the band edge positions of pristine and doped structures with respect to the redox potentials of water splitting indicated that Hydrogen occupying oxygen vacancies can increase the photocatalytic activity of the material for hydrogen generation due the extremely improved optical absorption and the band gap states.

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