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10.7: A continuum of quantum states - quantum numbers in a crystal

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    In a crystal quantum states can be indexed by the Bloch quantum number \(k\). In the LCAO approximation, there is a state for each possible atomic orbital at each value of \( {\bf k}\). As the number of electrons tends to infinity, the allowed \( {\bf k}\)’s form a continuum. The most important application of quantum mechanics in solid state physics is to understand the relationship between energy and momentum. A graph of energy vs momentum is called a band structure.

    States are occupied from the lowest energy upwards according to the exclusion principle. The set of momenta which correspond to the maximum allowed energy form a surface in the 3-d space - the so-called Fermi Surface.

    Shown is the valence “band structure” of dhcp potassium calculated using DFT and pseudopotentials: letters are crystallographic notation for values of \( {\bf k} (\Gamma = (0, 0, 0)\), others are on the edge of the Brilloiun zone). Note the free electron parabola around \(\Gamma\), as \(E = \hbar^2 k^2/2m\). This structure has four layers of atoms per unit cell, so on average there are two bands below the Fermi surface at each \(k\)-point (each is spin degenerate). There are lots of bands crossing the Fermi level, showing that electrons can move from one state to another without requiring energy: potassium is a metal. \(\Gamma\)-A is quite a short distance in k-space, corresponding to waves along the long direction in the unit cell: the band structure appears like a parabola “folded back” on itself.

    10.2.PNG

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Band structure of potassium, energy scaled so that \(E_F=0\). x-axis labels denote a path through the 3d space of \( {\bf k}\)-vectors.


    This page titled 10.7: A continuum of quantum states - quantum numbers in a crystal is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Graeme Ackland via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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