Chemists and material scientists have often focused on the properties of previously reported compounds, but neglect numerous unreported but chemically plausible compounds that could have interesting properties. For example, the 18-valence electron ABX family of compounds features examples of topological insulators, thermoelectrics and piezoelectrics, but only 83 out of 483 of these possible compounds have been made. Using first-principles thermodynamics we examined the theoretical stability of the 400 unreported members and predict that 54 should be stable. Of those previously unreported ‘missing’ materials now predicted to be stable, 15 were grown in this study; X-ray studies agreed with the predicted crystal structure in all 15 cases. Among the predicted and characterized properties of the missing compounds are potential transparent conductors, thermoelectric materials and topological semimetals. This integrated process—prediction of functionality in unreported compounds followed by laboratory synthesis and characterization—could be a route to the systematic discovery of hitherto missing, realizable functional materials.
R. Gautier, X. Zhang, L. Hu, L. Yu, Y. Lin, T. O. L. Sunde, D. Chon, K. R. Poeppelmeier, A. Zunger,"Prediction and accelerated laboratory discovery of previously unknown 18-electron ABX compounds", Nature Chemistry 7, 308-316 (2015).(PDF)