A Bloch wave or Bloch state, named after Felix Bloch, is the wavefunction of a particle (usually, an electron) placed in a periodic potential. Bloch's theorem states that the eigenfunction for such a system may be written as the product of a plane wave envelope function and a periodic function (periodic Bloch function) that has the same periodicity as the potential:
- The corresponding energy eigenvalue is Єn(k)= Єn(k + K), periodic with periodicity K of a reciprocal lattice vector. The energies associated with the index n vary continuously with wavevector k and form an energy band identified by band index n. The eigenvalues for given n are periodic in k; all distinct values of Єn(k) occur for k-values within the first Brillouin zone of the reciprocal lattice.
The plane wave wavevector (Bloch wavevector) k, which when multiplied by the reduced Planck's constant is the particle's crystal momentum, is unique only up to a reciprocal lattice vector, so one only needs to consider the wavevectors inside the first Brillouin zone. For a given wavevector and potential, there are a number of solutions, indexed by n, to Schrödinger's equation for a Bloch electron. These solutions, called bands, are separated in energy by a finite spacing at each k; if there is a separation that extends over all wavevectors, it is called a (complete) band gap. The band structure is the collection of energy eigenstates within the first Brillouin zone. All the properties of electrons in a periodic potential can be calculated from this band structure and the associated wavefunctions, at least within the independent electron approximation.
A corollary of this result is that the Bloch wavevector k is a conserved quantity in a crystalline system (modulo addition of reciprocal lattice vectors), and hence the group velocity of the wave is conserved. This means that electrons can propagate without scattering through a crystalline material, almost like free particles, and that electrical resistance in a crystalline conductor only results from imperfections and finite size which break the periodicity and interaction with phonons.
It can be shown that the eigenfunctions of a particle in a periodic potential can always be chosen in this form by proving that translation operators (by lattice vectors) commute with the Hamiltonian. More generally, the consequences of symmetry on the eigenfunctions are described by representation theory.
The concept of the Bloch state was developed by Felix Bloch in 1928, to describe the conduction of electrons in crystalline solids. The same underlying mathematics, however, was also discovered independently several times: by George William Hill (1877), Gaston Floquet (1883), and Alexander Lyapunov (1892). As a result, a variety of nomenclatures are common: applied to ordinary differential equations, it is called Floquet theory (or occasionally the Lyapunov-Floquet theorem). Various one-dimensional periodic potential equations have special names, for example, Hill's equation:
- ^ W Magnus and S Winkler (2004). Hill's Equation. Courier Dover. p. 11. ISBN 0-0486495655. http://books.google.com/books?id=ML5wm-T4RVQC&dq=%22hill's+equation%22&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=kWOt7bG8n0&sig=qB8ilFCc4_g6eCNoLnVDyY3Wo-U#PPA11,M1.
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