Published: May 14, 2013

jaDiscovery of new materials is important for all fields of chemistry. Yet, existing compilations of all known ternary inorganic solids still miss many possible combinations. Here, we present an example of accelerated discovery of the missing materials using the inverse design approach, which couples predictive first-principles theoretical calculations with combinatorial and traditional experimental synthesis and characterization. The compounds in focus belong to the equiatomic (1:1:1) ABX family of ternary materials with 18 valence electrons per formula unit. Of the 45 possible V–IX–IV compounds, 29 are missing. Theoretical screening of their thermodynamic stability revealed eight new stable 1:1:1 compounds, including TaCoSn. Experimental synthesis of TaCoSn, the first ternary in the Ta–Co–Sn system, confirmed its predicted zincblende-derived crystal structure. These results demonstrate how discovery of new materials can be accelerated by the combination of high-throughput theoretical and experimental methods. Despite being made of three metallic elements, TaCoSn is predicted and explained to be a semiconductor. The band gap of this material is difficult to measure experimentally, probably due to a high concentration of interstitial cobalt defects.

A. Zakutayev, X. Zhang, A. Nagaraja, L. Yu, S. Lany, T. O. Mason, D. S. Ginley, A. Zunger,"Theoretical prediction and experimental realization of new stable inorganic materials using the inverse design approach," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 135, 10048-10054 (2013).(PDF)