Extreme phonon anharmonicity underpins superionic diffusion and ultralow thermal conductivity in argyrodite Ag<sub>8</sub>SnSe<sub>6</sub>.

TitleExtreme phonon anharmonicity underpins superionic diffusion and ultralow thermal conductivity in argyrodite Ag8SnSe6.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsQ Ren, MK Gupta, M Jin, J Ding, J Wu, Z Chen, S Lin, O Fabelo, JA Rodríguez-Velamazán, M Kofu, K Nakajima, M Wolf, F Zhu, J Wang, Z Cheng, G Wang, X Tong, Y Pei, O Delaire, and J Ma
JournalNature Materials
Date Published05/2023
Abstract

Ultralow thermal conductivity and fast ionic diffusion endow superionic materials with excellent performance both as thermoelectric converters and as solid-state electrolytes. Yet the correlation and interdependence between these two features remain unclear owing to a limited understanding of their complex atomic dynamics. Here we investigate ionic diffusion and lattice dynamics in argyrodite Ag<sub>8</sub>SnSe<sub>6</sub> using synchrotron X-ray and neutron scattering techniques along with machine-learned molecular dynamics. We identify a critical interplay of the vibrational dynamics of mobile Ag and a host framework that controls the overdamping of low-energy Ag-dominated phonons into a quasi-elastic response, enabling superionicity. Concomitantly, the persistence of long-wavelength transverse acoustic phonons across the superionic transition challenges a proposed 'liquid-like thermal conduction' picture. Rather, a striking thermal broadening of low-energy phonons, starting even below 50 K, reveals extreme phonon anharmonicity and weak bonding as underlying features of the potential energy surface responsible for the ultralow thermal conductivity (<0.5 W m<sup>-1</sup> K<sup>-1</sup>) and fast diffusion. Our results provide fundamental insights into the complex atomic dynamics in superionic materials for energy conversion and storage.

DOI10.1038/s41563-023-01560-x
Short TitleNature Materials