Phonon density of states (PDOS) measurements have been performed on polycrystalline UO2 at 295 and 1200 K using time-of-flight inelastic neutron scattering to investigate the impact of anharmonicity on the vibrational spectra and to benchmark ab initio PDOS simulations performed on this strongly correlated Mott insulator. Time-of-flight PDOS measurements include anharmonic linewidth broadening, inherently, and the factor of ~7 enhancement of the oxygen spectrum relative to the uranium component by the increased neutron sensitivity to the oxygen-dominated optical phonon modes. The first-principles simulations of quasiharmonic PDOS spectra were neutron weighted and anharmonicity was introduced in an approximate way by convolution with wave-vector-weighted averages over our previously measured phonon linewidths for UO2, which are provided in numerical form. Comparisons between the PDOS measurements and the simulations show reasonable agreement overall, but they also reveal important areas of disagreement for both high and low temperatures. The discrepancies stem largely from a ~10 meV compression in the overall bandwidth (energy range) of the oxygen-dominated optical phonons in the simulations. A similar linewidth-convoluted comparison performed with the PDOS spectrum of Dolling et al. obtained by shell-model fitting to their historical phonon dispersion measurements shows excellent agreement with the time-of-flight PDOS measurements reported here. In contrast, we show by comparisons of spectra in linewidth-convoluted form that recent first-principles simulations for UO2 fail to account for the PDOS spectrum determined from the measurements of Dolling et al. These results demonstrate PDOS measurements to be stringent tests for ab inito simulations of phonon physics in UO2 and they indicate further the need for advances in theory to address the lattice dynamics of UO2.



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Center for High Performance Computing Research

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