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Phonon Self-Energy and Origin of Anomalous Neutron Scattering Spectra in SnTe and PbTe Thermoelectrics

C. W. Li, O. Hellman, J. Ma, A. F. May, H. B. Cao, X. Chen, A. D. Christianson, G. Ehlers, D. J. Singh, B. C. Sales, and O. Delaire
PRL 112, 175501 (2014)
The anharmonic lattice dynamics of rock-salt thermoelectric compounds SnTe and PbTe are investigated with inelastic neutron scattering (INS) and first-principles calculations. The experiments show that, surprisingly, although SnTe is closer to the ferroelectric instability, phonon spectra in PbTe exhibit a more anharmonic character. This behavior is reproduced in first-principles calculations of the temperature-dependent phonon self-energy. Our simulations reveal how the nesting of phonon dispersions induces prominent features in the self-energy, which account for the measured INS spectra and their temperature dependence. We establish that the phase space for three-phonon scattering processes, combined with the proximity to the lattice instability, is the mechanism determining the complex spectrum of the transverse-optic ferroelectric mode.

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Last updated: 07/15/14