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Title: Orbitally-driven giant phonon anharmonicity in SnSe

We understand that elementary excitations and their couplings in condensed matter systems is critical to develop better energy-conversion devices. In thermoelectric materials, the heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency is directly improved by suppressing the propagation of phonon quasiparticles responsible for macroscopic thermal transport. The material with the current record for thermoelectric conversion efficiency, SnSe, achieves an ultra-low thermal conductivity, but the mechanism enabling this strong phonon scattering remains largely unknown. Using inelastic neutron scattering measurements and first-principles simulations, we mapped the four-dimensional phonon dispersion surfaces of SnSe, and revealed the origin of ionic-potential anharmonicity responsible for the unique properties of SnSe. We show that the giant phonon scattering arises from an unstable electronic structure, with orbital interactions leading to a ferroelectric-like lattice instability. Our results provide a microscopic picture connecting electronic structure and phonon anharmonicity in SnSe, and offers precious insights on how electron-phonon and phononphonon interactions may lead to the realization of ultra-low thermal conductivity.
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  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature Physics
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 11; Journal Issue: 12; Journal ID: ISSN 1745-2473
Nature Publishing Group (NPG)
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR); Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Spallation Neutron Source (SNS)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States
36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; density functional theory; electronic devices; electronic properties and materials; structure of solids and liquids
OSTI Identifier: