Phonon-induced electronic relaxation in a strongly correlated system: the Sn/Si(111) (√3 x √3) adlayer revisited

Maedeh Zahedifar, *Peter Kratzer
Faculty of Physics and CENIDE, University Duisburg-Essen, Germany

The ordered adsorbate layer Sn/Si(111) (√3 x √3) with coverage of one third of a monolayer is considered as a realization of strong electronic correlation in surface physics. Our theoretical analysis shows that electron-hole pair excitations in this system can be long-lived, up to several hundred nanoseconds, since the decay into surface phonons is found to be a highly non-linear process.

We combine first-principles calculations with help of a hybrid functional (HSE06) with modeling by a Mott-Hubbard Hamiltonian coupled to phononic degrees of freedom. The calculations show that the Sn/Si(111) (√3 x √3) surface is insulating and the two Sn-derived bands inside the substrate band gap can be described as the lower and upper Hubbard band in a Mott-Hubbard model with U=0.75eV. Furthermore, phonon spectra are calculated with particular emphasis on the Sn-related surface phonon modes. The calculations demonstrate that the adequate treatment of electronic correlations leads to a stiffening of the wagging mode of neighboring Sn atoms; thus, we predict that the onset of electronic correlations at low temperature should be observable in the phonon spectrum, too. The deformation potential for electron-phonon coupling is calculated for selected vibrational modes and the decay rate of an electron-hole excitation into multiple phonons is estimated, substantiating the very long lifetime of these excitations.