Emergence of a few distinct structures from a single formal structure type during high-throughput screening for stable compounds: The case of RbCuS and RbCuSe

Giancarlo Trimarchi, Xiuwen Zhang, Michael J. Devries Vermeer, Jacqueline Cantwell, Kenneth R. Poeppelmeier, Alex Zunger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Theoretical sorting of stable and synthesizable "missing compounds" from those that are unstable is a crucial step in the discovery of previously unknown functional materials. This active research area often involves high-throughput (HT) examination of the total energy of a given compound in a list of candidate formal structure types (FSTs), searching for those with the lowest energy within that list. While it is well appreciated that local relaxation methods based on a fixed list of structure types can lead to inaccurate geometries, this approach is widely used in HT studies because it produces answers faster than global optimization methods (that vary lattice vectors and atomic positions without local restrictions). We find, however, a different failure mode of the HT protocol: specific crystallographic classes of formal structure types each correspond to a series of chemically distinct "daughter structure types" (DSTs) that have the same space group but possess totally different local bonding configurations, including coordination types. Failure to include such DSTs in the fixed list of examined candidate structures used in contemporary high-throughput approaches can lead to qualitative misidentification of the stable bonding pattern, not just quantitative inaccuracies. In this work, we (i) clarify the understanding of the general DST-FST relationship, thus improving current discovery HT approaches, (ii) illustrate this failure mode for RbCuS and RbCuSe (the latter being a yet unreported compound and is predicted here) by developing a synthesis method and accelerated crystal-structure determination, and (iii) apply the genetic-algorithm-based global space-group optimization (GSGO) approach which is not vulnerable to the failure mode of HT searches of fixed lists, demonstrating a correct identification of the stable DST. The broad impact of items (i)-(iii) lies in the demonstrated predictive ability of a more comprehensive search strategy than what is currently used - use HT calculations as the preliminary broad screening followed by unbiased GSGO of the final candidates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number165103
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number16
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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