Anomalously low electronic thermal conductivity in metallic vanadium dioxide

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Science  27 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6323, pp. 371-374
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag0410

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Decoupling charge and heat transport

In metals, electrons carry both charge and heat. As a consequence, electrical conductivity and the electronic contribution to the thermal conductivity are typically proportional to each other. Lee et al. found a large violation of this so-called Wiedemann-Franz law near the insulator-metal transition in VO2 nanobeams. In the metallic phase, the electronic contribution to thermal conductivity was much smaller than what would be expected from the Wiedemann-Franz law. The results can be explained in terms of independent propagation of charge and heat in a strongly correlated system.

Science, this issue p. 371


In electrically conductive solids, the Wiedemann-Franz law requires the electronic contribution to thermal conductivity to be proportional to electrical conductivity. Violations of the Wiedemann-Franz law are typically an indication of unconventional quasiparticle dynamics, such as inelastic scattering, or hydrodynamic collective motion of charge carriers, typically pronounced only at cryogenic temperatures. We report an order-of-magnitude breakdown of the Wiedemann-Franz law at high temperatures ranging from 240 to 340 kelvin in metallic vanadium dioxide in the vicinity of its metal-insulator transition. Different from previously established mechanisms, the unusually low electronic thermal conductivity is a signature of the absence of quasiparticles in a strongly correlated electron fluid where heat and charge diffuse independently.

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