Solids composed of iron and sulfur are earth abundant and nontoxic, and can exhibit interesting and technologically important optical, electronic, and magnetic phenomena. However, the iron-sulfur (Fe-S) phase diagram is congested in regions of slight non-stoichiometric iron vacancies, and even when the iron atomic composition changes by even a few percent at standard temperature and pressure, there are myriad stable crystal phases that form with qualitatively different electronic properties. Here, we synthesized and characterized nanocrystals of the pyrrhotite-4M structure (Fe7S8) in an anhydrous oleylamine solvent. Upon heating from 140 °C to 180 °C, the solid sequentially transformed into two kinetically trapped FeS intermediate phases before reaching the pyrrhotite-4M final product. Finally, we assessed the effects of iron vacancies using the stoichiometric end-member, troilite, as a reference system. Density functional theory calculations show that iron vacancies in troilite shift the structure from hexagonal FeS to a monoclinic structure, similar to crystal structures of pyrrhotites, and suggest that this iron deficient troilite may be a stable intermediate between the two crystal structures. The calculations predict that defects also close the band gap in iron deficient troilite.
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Roberts, Dennice M; Landin, Alyssa R; Ritter, Timothy G; Eaves, Joel D; and Stoldt, Conrad R, "Nanocrystalline Iron Monosulfides Near Stoichiometry." (2018). Mechanical Engineering Faculty Contributions. 68.