Metastable Ta2N3with highly tunable electrical conductivity: Via oxygen incorporation

Chang Ming Jiang, Laura I. Wagner, Matthew K. Horton, Johanna Eichhorn, Tim Rieth, Viktoria F. Kunzelmann, Max Kraut, Yanbo Li, Kristin A. Persson, Ian D. Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The binary Ta-N chemical system includes several compounds with notable prospects in microelectronics, solar energy harvesting, and catalysis. Among these, metallic TaN and semiconducting Ta3N5 have garnered significant interest, in part due to their synthetic accessibility. However, tantalum sesquinitride (Ta2N3) possesses an intermediate composition and largely unknown physical properties owing to its metastable nature. Herein, Ta2N3 is directly deposited by reactive magnetron sputtering and its optoelectronic properties are characterized. Combining these results with density functional theory provides insights into the critical role of oxygen in both synthesis and electronic structure. While the inclusion of oxygen in the process gas is critical to Ta2N3 formation, the resulting oxygen incorporation in structural vacancies drastically modifies the free electron concentration in the as-grown material, thus leading to a semiconducting character with a 1.9 eV bandgap. Reducing the oxygen impurity concentration via post-synthetic ammonia annealing increases the conductivity by seven orders of magnitude and yields the metallic characteristics of a degenerate semiconductor, consistent with theoretical predictions. Thus, this inverse oxygen doping approach-by which the carrier concentration is reduced by the oxygen impurity-offers a unique opportunity to tailor the optoelectronic properties of Ta2N3 for applications ranging from photochemical energy conversion to advanced photonics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1744-1755
Number of pages12
JournalMaterials Horizons
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


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