SUBJECT: Ph.D. Proposal Presentation
BY: Hamidreza Seyf
TIME: Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 12:00 p.m.
PLACE: MRDC Building, 3515
TITLE: Revisiting the theory of disordered alloy thermal conductivity
COMMITTEE: Dr. Asegun Henry, Chair (ME)
Dr. Ajeet Rohatgi (ECE)
Dr. Samuel Graham (ME)
Dr. Peter Hesketh (ME)
Dr. Shannon Yee (ME)
Dr. Martin Maldovan (CHBE)


Current understanding of phonons treats them as plane waves/quasi-particles of atomic vibration that propagate and scatter. The problem is that conceptually, when any level of disorder is introduced, whether compositional or structural, the character of vibrational modes in solids changes, yet nearly all theoretical treatments continue to assume phonons are still waves. For example, the phonon contributions to alloy thermal conductivity (TC) rely on this assumption and are most often computed from the virtual crystal approximation (VCA). Good agreement is obtained in some cases, but there are many instances where it fails – both quantitatively and qualitatively. In my research, I showed that the conventional theory and understanding of phonons requires major revision, because the critical assumption that all phonons/normal modes resemble plane waves with well-defined velocities is no longer valid when disorder is introduced. I showed, surprisingly, that the character of phonons changes dramatically within the first few percent of impurity concentration, beyond which phonons more closely resemble the modes found in amorphous materials. I then utilized a new theory that can treat modes with any character and experimentally confirm its new insights. The results have important implications for phonon interactions with neutrons, electrons and photons, since the momentum of non-plane wave phonons is currently unknown.