S-based semiconductors are attracting attention as environmentally friendly materials for energy-conversion applications because of their structural complexity and chemical flexibility. Here, we show that the delicate interplay between the chemical composition and cationic order/disorder allows one to stabilize a new sphalerite derivative phase of cubic symmetry in the Cu-Sn-S diagram: Cu22Sn10S32. Interestingly, its crystal structure is characterized by a semiordered cationic distribution, with the Cu-Sn disorder being localized on one crystallographic site in a long-range-ordered matrix. The origin of the partial disorder and its influence on the electronic and thermal transport properties are addressed in detail using a combination of synchrotron X-ray diffraction, Mössbauer spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, theoretical modeling, and transport property measurements. These measurements evidence that this compound behaves as a pseudogap, degenerate p-type material with very low lattice thermal conductivity (0.5 W m-1 K-1 at 700 K). We show that localized disorder is very effective in lowering κL without compromising the integrity of the conductive framework. Substituting pentavalent Sb for tetravalent Sn is exploited to lower the hole concentration and doubles the thermoelectric figure of merit ZT to 0.55 at 700 K with respect to the pristine compound. The discovery of this semiordered cubic sphalerite derivative Cu22Sn10S32 furthers the understanding of the structure-property relationships in the Cu-Sn-S system and more generally in ternary and quaternary Cu-based systems.
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