A critical evaluation of GGA + U modeling for atomic, electronic and magnetic structure of Cr2AlC, Cr2GaC and Cr2GeC

M Dahlqvist, B Alling, J Rosen
Journal of Physics. Condensed Matter: An Institute of Physics Journal 2015 March 11, 27 (9): 095601
In this work we critically evaluate methods for treating electron correlation effects in multicomponent carbides using a GGA + U framework, addressing doubts from previous works on the usability of density functional theory in the design of magnetic MAX phases. We have studied the influence of the Hubbard U-parameter, applied to Cr 3d orbitals, on the calculated lattice parameters, magnetic moments, magnetic order, bulk modulus and electronic density of states of Cr2AlC, Cr2GaC and Cr2GeC. By considering non-, ferro-, and five different antiferromagnetic spin configurations, we show the importance of including a broad range of magnetic orders in the search for MAX phases with finite magnetic moments in the ground state. We show that when electron correlation is treated on the level of the generalized gradient approximation (U = 0 eV), the magnetic ground state of Cr2AC (A = Al, Ga, Ge) is in-plane antiferromagnetic with finite Cr local moments, and calculated lattice parameters and bulk modulus close to experimentally reported values. By comparing GGA and GGA + U results with experimental data we find that using a U-value larger than 1 eV results in structural parameters deviating strongly from experimentally observed values. Comparisons are also done with hybrid functional calculations (HSE06) resulting in an exchange splitting larger than what is obtained for a U-value of 2 eV. Our results suggest caution and that investigations need to involve several different magnetic orders before lack of magnetism in calculations are blamed on the exchange-correlation approximations in this class of magnetic MAX phases.

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