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Photoinduced phase separation in the lead halides is a polaronic effect

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We present a perspective on recent observations of the photoinduced phase separation of halides in multi-component lead-halide perovskites. The spontaneous phase separation of an initial homogeneous solid solution under steady-state illumination conditions is found experimentally to be reversible, stochastic, weakly dependent on morphology, yet strongly dependent on composition and thermodynamic state. Regions enriched in a specific halide species that form upon phase separation are self-limiting in size, pinned to specific compositions, and grow in number in proportion to the steady-state carrier concentration until saturation. These empirical observations of robustness rule out explanations based on specific defect structures and point to the local modulation of an existing miscibility phase transition in the presence of excess charge carriers. A model for rationalizing existing observations based on the coupling between composition, strain, and charge density fluctuations through the formation of polarons is reviewed.

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