A Caltech Library Service

Studies of Phonon Anharmonicity in Solids


Lan, Tian (2014) Studies of Phonon Anharmonicity in Solids. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/AB7A-FP25.


Today our understanding of the vibrational thermodynamics of materials at low temperatures is emerging nicely, based on the harmonic model in which phonons are independent. At high temperatures, however, this understanding must accommodate how phonons interact with other phonons or with other excitations. We shall see that the phonon-phonon interactions give rise to interesting coupling problems, and essentially modify the equilibrium and non-equilibrium properties of materials, e.g., thermodynamic stability, heat capacity, optical properties and thermal transport of materials. Despite its great importance, to date the anharmonic lattice dynamics is poorly understood and most studies on lattice dynamics still rely on the harmonic or quasiharmonic models. There have been very few studies on the pure phonon anharmonicity and phonon-phonon interactions. The work presented in this thesis is devoted to the development of experimental and computational methods on this subject.

Modern inelastic scattering techniques with neutrons or photons are ideal for sorting out the anharmonic contribution. Analysis of the experimental data can generate vibrational spectra of the materials, i.e., their phonon densities of states or phonon dispersion relations. We obtained high quality data from laser Raman spectrometer, Fourier transform infrared spectrometer and inelastic neutron spectrometer. With accurate phonon spectra data, we obtained the energy shifts and lifetime broadenings of the interacting phonons, and the vibrational entropies of different materials. The understanding of them then relies on the development of the fundamental theories and the computational methods.

We developed an efficient post-processor for analyzing the anharmonic vibrations from the molecular dynamics (MD) calculations. Currently, most first principles methods are not capable of dealing with strong anharmonicity, because the interactions of phonons are ignored at finite temperatures. Our method adopts the Fourier transformed velocity autocorrelation method to handle the big data of time-dependent atomic velocities from MD calculations, and efficiently reconstructs the phonon DOS and phonon dispersion relations. Our calculations can reproduce the phonon frequency shifts and lifetime broadenings very well at various temperatures.

To understand non-harmonic interactions in a microscopic way, we have developed a numerical fitting method to analyze the decay channels of phonon-phonon interactions. Based on the quantum perturbation theory of many-body interactions, this method is used to calculate the three-phonon and four-phonon kinematics subject to the conservation of energy and momentum, taking into account the weight of phonon couplings. We can assess the strengths of phonon-phonon interactions of different channels and anharmonic orders with the calculated two-phonon DOS. This method, with high computational efficiency, is a promising direction to advance our understandings of non-harmonic lattice dynamics and thermal transport properties.

These experimental techniques and theoretical methods have been successfully performed in the study of anharmonic behaviors of metal oxides, including rutile and cuprite stuctures, and will be discussed in detail in Chapters 4 to 6. For example, for rutile titanium dioxide (TiO2), we found that the anomalous anharmonic behavior of the B1g mode can be explained by the volume effects on quasiharmonic force constants, and by the explicit cubic and quartic anharmonicity. For rutile tin dioxide (SnO2), the broadening of the B2g mode with temperature showed an unusual concave downwards curvature. This curvature was caused by a change with temperature in the number of down-conversion decay channels, originating with the wide band gap in the phonon dispersions. For silver oxide (Ag2O), strong anharmonic effects were found for both phonons and for the negative thermal expansion.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:lattice dynamics, anharmonic, Raman scattering, FTIR, neutron scattering, first principles computation
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Applied Physics
Minor Option:Electrical Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Fultz, Brent T.
Thesis Committee:
  • Fultz, Brent T. (chair)
  • Johnson, William Lewis
  • Goddard, William A., III
  • Rossman, George Robert
  • Marcus, Rudolph A.
  • Schwab, Keith C.
Defense Date:6 May 2014
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05142014-120832065
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle adapted for ch. 4 DOIArticle adapted for ch. 5 DOIArticle adapted for ch. 6
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8234
Deposited By: Tian Lan
Deposited On:20 May 2014 16:46
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:04

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page