We report the spontaneous decay of a soft, optical phonon in a solid. Using neutron spectroscopy, we find that specific phonon lifetimes in the relaxor PbMg(1/3)Nb(2/)3O(3) are anomalously short within well-defined ranges of energy and momentum. This behavior is independent of ferroelectric order and occurs when the optical phonon with a specific energy and momentum can kinematically decay into two acoustic phonons with lower phase velocity. We interpret the well-known relaxor "waterfall" effect as a form of quasiparticle decay analogous to that previously reported in quantum spin liquids and quantum fluids.
- INELASTIC NEUTRON-SCATTERING
- LEAD MAGNONIOBATE