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Phase-Change Materials: Vibrational Softening upon Crystallization and Its Impact on Thermal Properties



Crystallization of an amorphous solid is usually accompanied by a significant change of transport properties, such as an increase in thermal and electrical conductivity. This fact underlines the importance of crystalline order for the transport of charge and heat. Phase-change materials, however, reveal a remarkably low thermal conductivity in the crystalline state. The small change in this conductivity upon crystallization points to unique lattice properties. The present investigation reveals that the thermal properties of the amorphous and crystalline state of phase-change materials show remarkable differences such as higher thermal displacements and a more pronounced anharmonic behavior in the crystalline phase. These findings are related to the change of bonding upon crystallization, which leads to an increase of the sound velocity and a softening of the optical phonon modes at the same time.

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