Theory of band warping and its effects on thermoelectronic transport properties

Nicholas A. Mecholsky, Lorenzo Resca, Ian L. Pegg, Marco Fornari

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56 Scopus citations


Optical and transport properties of materials depend heavily upon features of electronic band structures in proximity of energy extrema in the Brillouin zone (BZ). Such features are generally described in terms of multidimensional quadratic expansions and corresponding definitions of effective masses. Multidimensional quadratic expansions, however, are permissible only under strict conditions that are typically violated when energy bands become degenerate at extrema in the BZ. Even for energy bands that are nondegenerate at critical points in the BZ there are instances in which multidimensional quadratic expansions cannot be correctly performed. Suggestive terms such as "band warping," "fluted energy surfaces," or "corrugated energy surfaces" have been used to refer to such situations and ad hoc methods have been developed to treat them. While numerical calculations may reflect such features, a complete theory of band warping has not hitherto been developed. We define band warping as referring to band structures that do not admit second-order differentiability at critical points in k space and we develop a generally applicable theory, based on radial expansions, and a corresponding definition of angular effective mass. Our theory also accounts for effects of band nonparabolicity and anisotropy, which hitherto have not been precisely distinguished from, if not utterly confused with, band warping. Based on our theory, we develop precise procedures to evaluate band warping quantitatively. As a benchmark demonstration, we analyze the warping features of valence bands in silicon using first-principles calculations and we compare those with previous semiempirical models. As an application of major significance to thermoelectricity, we use our theory and angular effective masses to generalize derivations of tensorial transport coefficients for cases of either single or multiple electronic bands, with either quadratically expansible or warped energy surfaces. From that theory we discover the formal existence at critical points of transport-equivalent ellipsoidal bands that yield identical results from the standpoint of any transport property. Additionally, we illustrate with some basic multiband models the drastic effects that band warping and anisotropy can induce on thermoelectric properties such as electronic conductivity and thermopower tensors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155131
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 24 2014


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