Not all materials are metallic under pressure: tuning the gap !
Highly stable materials are usually wide-gap insulators, where covalency dominates the ionic exchange, such as in carbon (diamond), MgO, and LiH, to name a few. In our latest work, in collaboration with experimental teams in USA, UK, and Japan we studied the enhanced stability of Sn3N4 to applied pressure and temperature. Our predicted phase transitions were confirmed by state-of-the-art Synchrotron X-ray diffraction and EXAFS measurements upon different annealing procedures.
The unique stability of the spinel (Sn3N4) phase is attributed to its dominant ionic character. This work is now published in Angewandte Chemie (International Edition). We also demonstrated that the application of pressure allowed us a systematic tuning of the charge density, cleanly, that is, without changes to the chemical composition via dopants.
More importantly we demonstrated the mechanism responsible for the opening of the electronic band upon compression. A continuous opening of the optical band gap was observed from 1.3 eV to 3.0 eV over a range of 100 GPa, a 540 nm blue‐shift spanning the entire visible spectrum. The pressure‐mediated band gap opening is general to this material across numerous high‐density polymorphs, implicating the predominant ionic bonding in the material as the cause. The rate of decompression to ambient conditions permits access to recoverable metastable states with varying band gaps energies, opening the possibility of pressure‐tuneable electronic properties for future applications.