Microscopic Origin of the Reduced Thermal Conductivity of Silicon Nanowires

YP He and G Galli, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 108, 215901 (2012).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.215901

We designed nanowires with a tailored surface structure and composition and with specific core defects to investigate the microscopic origin of the reduced thermal conductivity of Si at the nanoscale. We considered a diameter (15 nm) comparable to that of systems fabricated in recent experiments and we computed the thermal conductivity using equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations. We found that the presence of a native oxide surface layer may account for a tenfold to similar to 30-fold decrease in conductivity, with respect to bulk Si, depending on the level of roughness. However it is only the combination of core defects and surface ripples that enables a decrease close to 2 orders of magnitude, similar to that reported experimentally.

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