Source Publication

Physical Review Letters

Document Type


Publication Date

September 2007


Inelastic neutron scattering measurements on thermoelectric Zn4Sb3 reveal a dominant soft local phonon mode at 5.3(1) meV. The form factor of this local mode is characteristic for dumbbells vibrating preferably along the dumbbell axis and can be related to a vibration of Sb dimers along the c axis. The Lorentzian width of the mode corresponds to short phonon lifetimes of 0.39(2) ps and yields an estimate of the thermal conductivity that agrees quantitatively with recent steady state measurements. Heat capacity measurements are consistent with an Einstein mode model describing the local Sb-dimer rattling mode with an Einstein temperature of 62(1) K. Our study suggests that soft localized phonon modes in crystalline solids are not restricted to cagelike structures and are likely to be a universal feature of good thermoelectric materials.

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