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[ASAP] Doping Bottleneck in Hematite: Multipole Clustering by Small Polarons

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Highly effective doping in transition metal oxides is critical to fundamentally overcome low carrier conductivity due to small polaron formation and reach their ideal efficiency for energy conversion applications. However, the optimal doping concentration in polaronic oxides such as hematite has been extremely low, for example, less than a percent, which hinders the benefits of doping for practical applications. In this work, we investigate the underlying mechanism of low optimal doping concentration with group IV (Ti, Zr, and Hf) and XIV (Si, Ge, Sn, and Pb) dopants from first-principles calculations. We find that novel dopant-polaron clustering occurs even at very low dopant concentrations and resembles electric multipoles. These multipoles can be very stable at room temperature and are difficult to fully ionize compared to separate dopants, and thus they are detrimental to carrier concentration improvement. This allows us to uncover mysteries of the doping bottleneck in hematite and provide guidance for optimizing doping and carrier conductivity in polaronic oxides toward highly efficient energy conversion applications.

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