Equilibrium limit of thermal conduction and boundary scattering in nanostructures Academic Article uri icon


  • Determining the lattice thermal conductivity (κ) of nanostructures is especially challenging in that, aside from the phonon-phonon scattering present in large systems, the scattering of phonons from the system boundary greatly influences heat transport, particularly when system length (L) is less than the average phonon mean free path (MFP). One possible route to modeling κ in these systems is through molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, inherently including both phonon-phonon and phonon-boundary scattering effects in the classical limit. Here, we compare current MD methods for computing κ in nanostructures with both L ⩽ MFP and L ≫ MFP, referred to as mean free path constrained (cMFP) and unconstrained (uMFP), respectively. Using a (10,0) CNT (carbon nanotube) as a benchmark case, we find that while the uMFP limit of κ is well-defined through the use of equilibrium MD and the time-correlation formalism, the standard equilibrium procedure for κ is not appropriate for the treatment of the cMFP limit because of the large influence of boundary scattering. To address this issue, we define an appropriate equilibrium procedure for cMFP systems that, through comparison to high-fidelity non-equilibrium methods, is shown to be the low thermal gradient limit to non-equilibrium results. Further, as a means of predicting κ in systems having L ≫ MFP from cMFP results, we employ an extrapolation procedure based on the phenomenological, boundary scattering inclusive expression of Callaway [Phys. Rev. 113, 1046 (1959)]. Using κ from systems with L ⩽ 3 μm in the extrapolation, we find that the equilibrium uMFP κ of a (10,0) CNT can be predicted within 5%. The equilibrium procedure is then applied to a variety of carbon-based nanostructures, such as graphene flakes (GF), graphene nanoribbons (GNRs), CNTs, and icosahedral fullerenes, to determine the influence of size and environment (suspended versus supported) on κ. Concerning the GF and GNR systems, we find that the supported samples yield consistently lower values of κ and that the phonon-boundary scattering remains dominant at large lengths, with L = 0.4 μm structures exhibiting a third of the periodic result. We finally characterize the effect of shape in CNTs and fullerenes on κ, showing the angular components of conductivity in CNTs and icosahedral fullerenes are similar for a given circumference.

author list (cited authors)

  • Haskins, J. B., Kınacı, A., Sevik, C., & Çağın, T.

citation count

  • 10

publication date

  • June 2014