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Dynamical Bonding Driving Mixed Valency in a Metal Boride.


Samarium hexaboride is an anomaly, having many exotic and seemingly mutually incompatible properties. It was proposed to be a mixed-valent semiconductor, and later a topological Kondo insulator, and yet has a Fermi surface despite being an insulator. We propose a new and unified understanding of SmB6 centered on the hitherto unrecognized dynamical bonding effect: the coexistence of two Sm-B bonding modes within SmB6 , corresponding to different oxidation states of the Sm. The mixed valency arises in SmB6 from thermal population of these distinct minima enabled by motion of B. Our model simultaneously explains the thermal valence fluctuations, appearance of magnetic Fermi surface, excess entropy at low temperatures, pressure-induced phase transitions, and related features in Raman spectra and their unexpected dependence on temperature and boron isotope.

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