Synthesis-enabled exploration of uncharted areas of phase space
Such compounds are traditionally difficult to synthesize with high purity due to vastly different reactivities of the elements or are thermally inaccessible. The Akopov group will focus on forming phases by starting with an adaptable yet stable solid-state substrate (precursor) and reacting it with the volatile inorganic synthon to form complex multinary intemetallics and explore pnictides and chalcogenides of metal boride and carbides. These phases possess stable motifs that can be sequentially modified for enhanced properties: magnetic, thermoelectric, optical and non-linear optical (NLO).
Rediscovering multinary sulfides for photocatalysis
The goal is to design multinary phases for efficient photocatalysis for pollutant degradation, water splitting and fuel generation. Many metal tetrel pnictides and chalcogenides have band gaps in the visible range or larger which makes them very good in application of water splitting reactions. Such phases allow for a remarkable tunability of the band gap through minute changes of the composition, using transition metals with different oxidation states and coordination environments.
Superhardness in metal borocarbides through crystal structure tuning
The focus is on the exploration of the crystal chemistry and mechanical properties (superhardness) of mixed metal borocarbides. Such phases bridge the gap between metal borides and carbides due to the synergy of structural boron and carbon. A formation of heteroanionic B-C bonds in addition to homoanionic B-B and C-C bonds allows to control of the B-C layer geometry by changing the amount of B and C or the metal, which affects the size and shape of the nonmetal polygon above and below the metal. Furthermore, in addition to mechanical properties, such phases are interesting in magnetic, superconductor and catalytic applications.