Controlling the metal work function through atomic-scale surface engineering

Authors: Ageo Meierde Andrade, Jolla Kullgren, and Peter Broqvist

Adsorbate induced work function modification of Ni have been investigated by means of first-principles calculations. More specifically, the adsorption of Li, Na, Si, Zr, Pd, Pt, or Sn at various coverages on Ni low-index surface models have been considered. In the case of Sn, a more thorough investigation was performed comparing the adsorption as an overlayer structure with the case of surface alloy formation. Our calculations suggest that the most stable Sn@Ni configuration corresponds to a surface alloy, and here the Ni(100)c(2 × 2)-Sn, Ni(110)c(2 × 2)-Sn, and Ni(111)(sqrt(3) x sqrt(3))R30-Sn surface alloys were found to display similar stability. Concerning the induced work function change, a different behaviour as a function of coverage was observed depending on the nature of the Sn@Ni surface model. Both overlayer adsorption and surface alloying were found to induce a work function decrease already at relatively low coverages ( 0.05 atom Å −2), regardless of the underlying surface orientation. However, while the work function obtained for stable surface alloys was found to monotonously decrease as the coverage increases, the work function for the stable overlayer structures goes through a minimum. For all investigated surface modifications, the change in work function was found to be consistent with the orientation of the charge transfer at the adsorbate–surface interface. The computed data in this work may serve as handles for experimental endeavours aiming to optimize properties of active materials through atomic-scale surface engineering.

Applied Surface Science, Volume 589, (2022), 152932
doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsusc.2022.152932

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