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Phonon-phonon scattering dominates the thermal properties in nonmetallic materials, and it directly influences device performance in applications. The understanding of the scattering has been progressing using computational approaches, and the direct and systematic observation of phonon modes that include momentum dependences is desirable. We report experimental data on the phonon dispersion curves and lifetimes in an epitaxially grown ScN film using inelastic x-ray scattering measurements. The momentum dependence of the optical phonon lifetimes is estimated from the spectral width, and the highest-energy phonon mode around the zone center is found to possess a short lifetime of 0.21 ps. A comparison with first-principles calculations shows that our observed phonon lifetimes are quantitatively explained by three-body phonon-phonon interactions.

Physical Review Letters: