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Publication# Effective field theory for acoustic and pseudoacoustic phonons in solids

Abstract

We present a relativistic effective field theory for the interaction between acoustic and gapped phonons in the limit of a small gap. We show that, while the former are the Goldstone modes associated with the spontaneous breaking of spacetime symmetries, the latter are pseudo-Goldstones associated with some (small) explicit breaking. We hence dub them "pseudoacoustic" phonons. In this first investigation, we build our effective theory for the cases of one and two spatial dimensions, two atomic species, and assuming large distance isotropy. As an illustrative example, we show how the theory can be applied to compute the total lifetime of both acoustic and pseudoacoustic phonons. This construction can find applications that range from the physics of bilayer graphene to sub-GeV dark matter detectors.

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Related concepts (10)

Effective field theory

In physics, an effective field theory is a type of approximation, or effective theory, for an underlying physical theory, such as a quantum field theory or a statistical mechanics model. An effective field theory includes the appropriate degrees of freedom to describe physical phenomena occurring at a chosen length scale or energy scale, while ignoring substructure and degrees of freedom at shorter distances (or, equivalently, at higher energies).

Phonon

In physics, a phonon is a collective excitation in a periodic, elastic arrangement of atoms or molecules in condensed matter, specifically in solids and some liquids. A type of quasiparticle, a phonon is an excited state in the quantum mechanical quantization of the modes of vibrations for elastic structures of interacting particles. Phonons can be thought of as quantized sound waves, similar to photons as quantized light waves. However, photons are fundamental particles that can be individually detected, whereas phonons, being quasiparticles, are an emergent phenomenon.

Spontaneous symmetry breaking

Spontaneous symmetry breaking is a spontaneous process of symmetry breaking, by which a physical system in a symmetric state spontaneously ends up in an asymmetric state. In particular, it can describe systems where the equations of motion or the Lagrangian obey symmetries, but the lowest-energy vacuum solutions do not exhibit that same symmetry. When the system goes to one of those vacuum solutions, the symmetry is broken for perturbations around that vacuum even though the entire Lagrangian retains that symmetry.

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