Indexed on: 25 Feb '10Published on: 25 Feb '10Published in: Physics - Materials Science
The electronic properties of single- and multi-cation transparent conducting oxides (TCOs) are investigated using first-principles density functional approach. A detailed comparison of the electronic band structure of stoichiometric and oxygen deficient In$_2$O$_3$, $\alpha$- and $\beta$-Ga$_2$O$_3$, rock salt and wurtzite ZnO, and layered InGaZnO$_4$ reveals the role of the following factors which govern the transport and optical properties of these TCO materials: (i) the crystal symmetry of the oxides, including both the oxygen coordination and the long-range structural anisotropy; (ii) the electronic configuration of the cation(s), specifically, the type of orbital(s) -- $s$, $p$ or $d$ -- which form the conduction band; and (iii) the strength of the hybridization between the cation's states and the p-states of the neighboring oxygen atoms. The results not only explain the experimentally observed trends in the electrical conductivity in the single-cation TCO, but also demonstrate that multicomponent oxides may offer a way to overcome the electron localization bottleneck which limits the charge transport in wide-bandgap main-group metal oxides. Further, the advantages of aliovalent substitutional doping -- an alternative route to generate carriers in a TCO host -- are outlined based on the electronic band structure calculations of Sn, Ga, Ti and Zr-doped InGaZnO$_4$. We show that the transition metal dopants offer a possibility to improve conductivity without compromising the optical transmittance.