We report that the lowest energy transverse-optic phonon in metallic SnTe softens to near zero energy at the structural transition at TC = 75 K and importantly show that the energy of this mode below TC increases as the temperature decreases. Since the mode is a polar displacement this proves unambiguously that SnTe undergoes a ferroelectric displacement below TC. Concentration gradients and imperfect stoichiometry in large crystals may explain why this was not seen in previous inelastic neutron scattering studies. Despite SnTe being metallic we find that the ferroelectric transition is similar to that in ferroelectric insulators, unmodified by the presence of conduction electrons: we find that (i) the damping of the polar mode is dominated by coupling to acoustic phonons rather than electron-phonon coupling, (ii) the transition is almost an ideal continuous transition, and (iii) comparison with density functional calculations identifies the importance of dipolar-dipolar screening for understanding this behavior.
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Physical review B: Condensed matter and materials physics|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Apr 2017|
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