Hydrogenation of amorphous silicon (a-Si: H) is critical for reducing defect densities, passivating midgap states and surfaces, and improving photoconductivity in silicon-based electro-optical devices. Modeling the atomic-scale structure of this material is critical to understanding these processes, which in turn is needed to describe c-Si/a-Si: H heterojunctions that are at the heart of modern solar cells with world-record efficiency. Density functional theory (DFT) studies achieve the required high accuracy but are limited to moderate system sizes of 100 atoms or so by their high computational cost. Simulations of amorphous materials have been hindered by this high cost because large structural models are required to capture the medium-range order that is characteristic of such materials. Empirical potential models are much faster, but their accuracy is not sufficient to correctly describe the frustrated local structure. Data-driven, machine-learned interatomic potentials have broken this impasse and have been highly successful in describing a variety of amorphous materials in their elemental phase. Here, we extend the Gaussian approximation potential (GAP) for silicon by incorporating the interaction with hydrogen, thereby significantly improving the degree of realism with which amorphous silicon can be modeled. We show that our Si: H GAP enables the simulation of hydrogenated silicon with an accuracy very close to DFT but with computational expense and run times reduced by several orders of magnitude for large structures. We demonstrate the capabilities of the Si: H GAP by creating models of hydrogenated liquid and amorphous silicon and showing that their energies, forces, and stresses are in excellent agreement with DFT results, and their structure as captured by bond and angle distributions are in agreement with both DFT and experiments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)