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Electronic and protonic conduction in LaFeO₃

Zhu, Zhen, Peelaers, Hartwin, Van de Walle, Chris G.
Journal of materials chemistry A 2017 v.5 no.29 pp. 15367-15379
batteries, cations, chemistry, density functional theory, electrodes, hydrogen, iron, oxygen, strontium
Perovskite-type LaFeO₃ has promising applications as a negative-electrode material for Ni/metal-hydride batteries. To further improve electrode performance, a thorough understanding of its charge-transport mechanisms is required. We use hybrid density functional theory to investigate the structural and electronic properties of bulk LaFeO₃, as well as the effect of point defects and polarons on charge transport. Electronic charge localizes in the form of small hole and electron polarons; this self-trapping occurs in the bulk and also in the vicinity of point defects and impurities. We find that oxygen vacancies act as deep donors, while Fe and La vacancies are acceptors with the induced holes trapped as small polarons. Hydrogen interstitials and Ge and Ti impurities, on the other hand, act as donors that can trap small electron polarons. Hydrogen binds strongly to the La and Fe vacancies and hence these defects are detrimental to protonic conduction. We also elucidate how doping with Sr enhances the electrode performance of LaFeO₃:Sr impurities substituting on La sites act as acceptors and enable electronic conductivity through hole polarons, with a hopping barrier of 0.39 eV. In addition, Sr impurities suppress the formation of cation vacancies, thereby enhancing proton conductivity.