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Coulomb gap and low-temperature conductivity of disordered systems

This article has been downloaded from IOPscience. Please scroll down to see the full text article. 1975 J. Phys. C: Solid State Phys. 8 L239 ( View the table of contents for this issue, or go to the journal homepage for more

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J. Phys. C: Solid State Phys., Vol. 8, 1975. Printed in Great Britain. @ 1975


Coulomb gap and low-temperature conductivity of disordered systems

N F Mott
Cavendish Laboratory, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB2 ITT

Received 1 April 1975

Abstract. A recent letter about the effect of Coulomb interaction on variable-range hopping is discussed.

Efros and Shklovskii (1975) in a recent letter have discussed the effect of electronelectron interaction on the low-temperature conductivity of disordered systems. They claim that this interaction leads to a zero density of states at the Fermi energy, and a conductivity varying as exp( - B/T/2).We do not think either conclusion is correct, for the following reason. Their analysis applies to the case where the localization radius is small compared with the distance between centres, and thus to the case of impurity conduction is lightly doped semiconductors. They argue as follows. They consider an energy interval E at the Fermi level. If an electron is transferred to another site at a distance R, for the energy without Coulomb interaction to be less than E, R should be greater than the value given by N ( E , ) R 3 ~ 1.


The transference of an electron leaves a positive and negative charge, which have interaction energy - e2/KR.They show that, if E is small, this quantity may be written


For small E this will always be numerically greater than E . Therefore the excitonic term e2/1cr12makes hopping impossible. They go on to argue that, though N(E,) = 0, there is no gap. As regards the density of states, however, a finite value of the density of states N(E,) will occur if excitations exist with vanishingly small energy when R tends to infinity; the above argument relates only to finite values of R, and does not therefore lead to a vanishing density of states. As regards hopping, the effect of electron-electron interaction has been analysed by Knotek and Pollack (1974). It is true that a given carrier produces a potential well for itself by ensuring that some nearby states are empty which would otherwise be occupied. If the electron is to jump to a distant site of nearly equal energy, it must carry its well with it; in other words, other electrons must jump to neighbouring sites at the same time, introducing into the hopping probability a product of terms of the type



letter to the Editor

where t,bi is defined in the field before the electron jumps, + j afterwards. The paper by Pollak and Knotek deals primarily with hopping to nearest neighbours, and it is not as yet clear what effect the Coulomb interaction between particles will have on variable-range hopping; it is not as yet clear whether the conductivity should always behave like A exp (- B/T''4) at the lowest temperatures, or like A exp ( - B/TLl3)in two dimensions, as seems empirically to be the case.

I am grateful to Professor M Pollak and Dr M L Knotek for correspondence about this letter.
Efros A L and Shklovskii B I 1975J . Phys. C: Solid Sr. Phys. 8 L49-51 Knotek M L and Pollak M 1974 Phys. Rev. B 9 664-81