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Publication# First-Principles Determination of Phonon Lifetimes, Mean Free Paths, and Thermal Conductivities in Crystalline Materials: Pure Silicon and Germanium

Abstract

The thermal properties of insulating, crystalline materials are essentially determined by their phonon dispersions, the finite-temperature excitations of their phonon populations-treated as a Bose-Einstein gas of harmonic oscillators-and the lifetimes of these excitations. The conceptual foundations of this picture are now a well-established cornerstone in the theory of solids. However, only in recent years our theoretical and algorithmic capabilities have reached the point where we can now determine all these quantities from first-principles, i.e. from a quantum-mechanical description of the system at hand without any empirical input. Such advances have been largely due to the development of density-functional perturbation theory that allows to calculate second-and third-order perturbations of a system of interacting electrons with a cost that is independent of the wavelength of the perturbation. Here we present an extensive case study for the phonon dispersions, phonon lifetimes, phonon mean free paths, and thermal conductivities for isotopically pure silicon and germanium, showing excellent agreement with experimental results, where available, and providing much needed microscopic insight in the fundamental atomistic processes giving rise to thermal conductivity in crystals.

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Related concepts (35)

Perturbation theory (quantum mechanics)

In quantum mechanics, perturbation theory is a set of approximation schemes directly related to mathematical perturbation for describing a complicated quantum system in terms of a simpler one. The idea is to start with a simple system for which a mathematical solution is known, and add an additional "perturbing" Hamiltonian representing a weak disturbance to the system. If the disturbance is not too large, the various physical quantities associated with the perturbed system (e.g.

Thermal insulation

Thermal insulation is the reduction of heat transfer (i.e., the transfer of thermal energy between objects of differing temperature) between objects in thermal contact or in range of radiative influence. Thermal insulation can be achieved with specially engineered methods or processes, as well as with suitable object shapes and materials. Heat flow is an inevitable consequence of contact between objects of different temperature.

Silicon

Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. It is a hard, brittle crystalline solid with a blue-grey metallic luster, and is a tetravalent metalloid and semiconductor. It is a member of group 14 in the periodic table: carbon is above it; and germanium, tin, lead, and flerovium are below it. It is relatively unreactive. Because of its high chemical affinity for oxygen, it was not until 1823 that Jöns Jakob Berzelius was first able to prepare it and characterize it in pure form.

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