Spin-orbit coupling: atom versus semiconductor crystal

Abstract : We reconsider a key point in semiconductor physics, the splitting of the valence band states induced by the spin-orbit interaction, through a novel approach which uses neither the group theory formalism, nor the usual L · S formulation valid for atoms but conceptually incorrect for periodic lattices, the angular momenta L and J having no meaning due to the absence of spherical symmetry. We show that for zinc-blende structures, the valence band eigenstates resulting from spin-orbit coupling are uniquely determined by: (i) the equivalence of the (x, y, z) crystal axes, (ii) the threefold degeneracy of the valence band. The fact that these two conditions are also fulfilled by atomic p states allows us to understand why the spin-orbit eigenstates for threefold atomic and valence electrons have exactly the same structure, albeit the drastic differences in the potential and electronic symmetries. We also come back to the commonly accepted understanding of the exciton-photon interaction in terms of bright and dark excitons having total angular momenta J = (1, 2) respectively and present a simple derivation of this interaction which only relies on spin conservation.
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Monique Combescot, Shiue-Yuan Shiau, Valia Voliotis. Spin-orbit coupling: atom versus semiconductor crystal. Physical Review B : Condensed matter and materials physics, American Physical Society, 2019, 99 (24), pp.245202. ⟨10.1103/PhysRevB.99.245202⟩. ⟨hal-02351681⟩

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