Toward a Complete Theory of Crystal Vibrations: Viewpoint on Phys. Rev. X 13, 031026 (2023)

Jan Berges

Physics 16, 151 (2023)

Although a crystal is a highly ordered structure, it is never at rest: its atoms are constantly vibrating about their equilibrium positions—even down to zero temperature. Such vibrations are called phonons, and their interaction with the electrons that hold the crystal together is partly responsible for the crystal’s optical properties, its ability to conduct heat or electricity, and even its vanishing electrical resistance if it is superconducting. Predicting, or at least understanding, such properties requires an accurate description of the interplay of electrons and phonons. This task is formidable given that the electronic problem alone—assuming that the atomic nuclei stand still—is already challenging and lacks an exact solution. Now, based on a long series of earlier milestones, Gianluca Stefanucci of the Tor Vergata University of Rome and colleagues have made an important step toward a complete theory of electrons and phonons.

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