In physics, a phonon is a collective excitation in a periodic, elastic arrangement of atoms or molecules in condensed matter, specifically in solids and some liquids. A type of quasiparticle,[1] a phonon is an excited state in the quantum mechanical quantization of the modes of vibrations for elastic structures of interacting particles. Phonons can be thought of as quantized sound waves, similar to photons as quantized light waves.[2]

The study of phonons is an important part of condensed matter physics. They play a major role in many of the physical properties of condensed matter systems, such as thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity, as well as playing a fundamental role in models of neutron scattering and related effects.

The concept of phonons was introduced in 1932 by Soviet physicist Igor Tamm. The name phonon comes from the Greek word φωνή (phonē), which translates to sound or voice, because long-wavelength phonons give rise to sound. The name is analogous to the word photon.

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