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2023 - A first-principles study of self-healing binders for next-generation Si-based lithium-ion batteries [Articolo su rivista]
Maji, R.; Salvador, M. A.; Ruini, A.; Magri, R.; Degoli, E.

Silicon anodes typically suffer from poor intrinsic conductivity and dramatic volume change during charge/discharge cycles, which hinders their commercialization in high energy density lithium-ion batteries (LiBs). This issue can be alleviated by embedding particles of the active material in an adhesive matrix, such as a polymer binder, that can accommodate large volume changes during lithiation and delithiation. Several research efforts have aimed at enhancing the adhesive, elastic, electrical, and ionic properties of binders for use in silicon anodes. Therefore, stable silicon/polymer interfaces are crucial for the performance of high capacity silicon-based LiBs. In this research, we focused on the definition of the mechanisms that determine the adhesion properties of a couple of recently proposed self-healing polymers, on Si-surfaces. The structural and electronic properties as well as the energetics of boronic acid-doped polyaniline and polyvinyl alcohol monomers absorbed on Si (110) and Si (111) surfaces have been investigated through first-principles calculations based on the density functional theory. We showed that the coabsorption of these two monomers increases the absorption energy and in general improves the adhesion properties of both polymers on both Si-surfaces, especially on the Si (111) facet.

2022 - Ab initio nonlinear optics in solids: linear electro-optic effect and electric-field induced second-harmonic generation [Articolo su rivista]
Prussel, L.; Maji, R.; Degoli, E.; Luppi, E.; Veniard, V.

Second-harmonic generation (SHG), linear electro-optic effect (LEO) and electric-field induced second-harmonic generation (EFISH) are nonlinear optical processes with important applications in optoelectronics and photovoltaics. SHG and LEO are second-order nonlinear optical processes described by second-order susceptibility. Instead, EFISH is a third-order nonlinear optical process described by third-order susceptibility. LEO and EFISH are only observed in the presence of a static electric field. These nonlinear processes are very sensitive to the symmetry of the systems. In particular, LEO is usually observed through a change in the dielectric properties of the material while EFISH can be used to generate a "second harmonic" response in centrosymmetric material. In this work, we present a first-principle formalism to calculate second- and third-order susceptibility for LEO and EFISH. LEO is studied for GaAs semiconductor and compared with the dielectric properties of this material. We also present how it is possible for LEO to include the ionic contribution to the second-order macroscopic susceptibility. Concerning EFISH we present for the first time the theory we developed in the framework of TDDFT to calculate this nonlinear optical process. Our approach permits to obtain an expression for EFISH which does not contain the mathematical divergences in the frequency-dependent second-order susceptibility that caused until now many difficulties for numerical calculations.

2022 - Comparison of long-range corrected kernels and range-separated hybrids for excitons in solids [Articolo su rivista]
Maji, Rita; Degoli, Elena; Calatayud, Monica; V??niard, Val??rie; Luppi, Eleonora

At the moment, the most accurate theoretical method to describe excitons is the solution of the Bethe-Salpeter equation in the GW approximation (GW-BSE). However, because of its computation cost, time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) is becoming the alternative approach to GW-BSE to describe excitons in solids. Nowadays, the most efficient strategy to describe optical spectra of solids in TDDFT is to use long-range corrected exchange-correlation kernels on top of GW or scissor-corrected energies. In recent years, a different strategy based on range-separated hybrid functionals started to be developed in the framework of time-dependent generalized Kohn-Sham density functional theory. Here we compare the performance of long-range corrected kernels with range-separated hybrid functionals for the description of excitons in solids. This comparison has the purpose to weight the pros and cons of using range-separated hybrid functionals, giving new perspectives for theoretical developments of these functionals. We illustrate the comparison for the case of Si and LiF, representative of solid-state excitons.

2022 - Insight into the inclusion of heteroatom impurities in Silicon structures [Articolo su rivista]
Maji, Rita; Luppi, Eleonora; Degoli, Elena; Contreras-García, Julia

The bonding properties of tilt boundary in poly-silicon and the effect of interstitial impurities are investigated by first-principles. In order to obtain thorough information on the nature of chemical bondings in these solid systems, an accurate topological analysis is performed, through partitioning of the electron localization function. Although the mechanism of segregation of single light impurities, such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in Si-based systems is known, it is only in the presence of multiple segregations that the distinctive structures of the various interstitial impurities emerge. The structural analysis of the modified Si systems and the comparison with the corresponding molecular structure within these solid phases provide an adequate description of interesting properties, for which bond charges provide more insight than bond length. It is shown that, in the presence of isovalent carbon, all systems try to preserve the tetrahedral coordination, on the contrary, trivalent nitrogen induces a strong local distortion to fit in the tetrahedral Si matrix while oxygen is the impurity that segregates more easily and more regularly. This work shows that impurities lead to local distortions and how the electron distribution rearranges to smooth it. Overall, it shows how the analysis of bonds and their correlation with energetics and electronic structure is of fundamental importance for the understanding of the defects induced properties and of the basic mechanisms that influence them.

2022 - Revealing the role of Σ3{112} Si grain boundary local structures in impurity segregation [Articolo su rivista]
Maji, Rita; Luppi, Eleonora; Degoli, Elena

The interfacial structure of a silicon grain boundary (Si-GB) plays a decisive role on its chemical functionalization and has implications in diverse physical-chemical properties of the material. Therefore, GB interface is particularly relevant when the material is employed in high performance technological applications. Here, we studied from first principles the role of GB interface by providing an atomistic understanding of two different Σ3{112} Si-GB models. These models are (1×1) and (1×2) Σ3{112} Si-GBs which lead to different structural reconstruction. Starting from these two models, we have shown that geometry optimization has an important role on the structural reconstruction of the GB interface and therefore on its properties. For this reason, we discussed different methodologies to define an optimal relaxation protocol. The influence of the local structures in (1×1) and (1×2) models have also been investigated in the presence of vacancies where different light impurities of different valency (C, N, H, O) can segregate. We studied how local structures in (1×1) and (1×2) models are modified by the presence of vacancies and impurities. These structural modifications have been correlated with the changes of the energetics and electronic properties of the GBs. The behaviour of (1×1) and (1×2) models demonstrated to be significantly different. The interaction with vacancies and the segregation of C, N, H and O are significantly different depending on the type of local structures present in Σ3{112} Si-GB.

2021 - Ab initio study of oxygen segregation in silicon grain boundaries: The role of strain and vacancies [Articolo su rivista]
Maji, R.; Luppi, E.; Capron, N.; Degoli, E.

Multi-crystalline silicon is widely used for producing low-cost and high-efficiency solar cells. During crystal growth and device fabrication, silicon solar cells contain grain boundaries (GBs) which are preferential segregation sites for atomic impurities such as oxygen atoms. GBs can induce charge carriers recombination significantly reducing carrier lifetimes and therefore they can be detrimental for Si device performance. We studied the correlation between structural, energetic and electronic properties of Σ3{111} Si GB in the presence of vacancies, strain and multiple O segregation. The study of the structural and energetic properties of GBs in the presence of strain and vacancies gives an accurate description of the complex mechanisms that control the segregation of oxygen atoms. We analysed tensile and compressive strain and we obtained that local tensile strain around O impurities is very effective for segregation. We also studied the role of multiple O impurities in the presence of Si vacancies finding that the segregation is favorite for those structures which have restored tetrahedral covalent bonds. The presence of vacancies attract atomic impurities in order to restore the electronic stability: the interstitial impurity becomes substitutional. This analysis was the starting point to correlate the change of the electronic properties in Σ3{111} Si GBs with O impurities in the presence of strain and vacancies. For each structure we analysed the density of states and its projection on atoms and states, the band gaps, the segregation energy and their correlation in order to characterise the nature of new energy levels. Actually, knowing the origin of defined electronic states would allow the optimization of materials in order to reduce non radiative electron-hole recombination avoiding charge and energy losses and therefore improving solar cell efficiency.

2021 - Effect of Strain on Interactions of Σ3{111} Silicon Grain Boundary with Oxygen Impurities from First Principles [Articolo su rivista]
Maji, R.; Contreras-Garcia, J.; Luppi, E.; Degoli, E.

The interaction of grain boundaries (GBs) with inherent defects and/or impurity elements in multicrystalline silicon plays a decisive role in their electrical behavior. Strain, depending on the types of GBs and defects, plays an important role in these systems. Herein, the correlation between the structural and electronic properties of Σ3{111} Si-GB in the presence of interstitial oxygen impurities is studied from the first-principles framework, considering the global and local model of strain. It is observed that the distribution of strain along with the number of impurity atoms modifies the energetics of the material. However, the electronic properties of the considered Si-GBs are not particularly affected by the strain and by the oxygen impurities, unless a very high local distortion induces additional structural defects.

2021 - The role of Si vacancies in the segregation of O, C, and N at silicon grain boundaries: An ab initio study [Articolo su rivista]
Maji, R.; Contreras-Garcia, J.; Capron, N.; Degoli, E.; Luppi, E.

Grain boundaries (GBs) are defects originating in multi-crystalline silicon during crystal growth for device Si solar cell fabrication. The presence of GBs changes the coordination of Si, making it advantageous for charge carriers to recombine, which brings a significant reduction of carrier lifetimes. Therefore, GBs can be highly detrimental for device performances. Furthermore, GBs easily form vacancies with deep defect electronic states and are also preferential segregation sites for various impurity species, such as C, N, and O. We studied from first principles the correlation between structural, energetics, and electronic properties of the ς3{111} Si GB with and without vacancies, and the segregation of C, N, and O atoms. C and O atoms strongly increase their ability to segregate when vacancies are present. However, the electronic properties of the ς3{111} Si GB are not affected by the presence of O, while they can strongly change in the case of C. For N atoms, it is not possible to find a clear trend in the energetics and electronic properties both with and without vacancies in the GB. In fact, as N is not isovalent with Si, as C and O, it is more flexible in finding new chemical arrangements in the GB structure. This implies a stronger difficulty in controlling the properties of the material in the presence of N impurity atoms compared to C and O impurities.