An excellent candidate for largely reducing interfacial thermal resistance: a nano-confined mass graded interface

YG Zhou and XL Zhang and M Hu, NANOSCALE, 8, 1994-2002 (2016).

DOI: 10.1039/c5nr06855j

Pursuing extremely low interfacial thermal resistance has long been the task of many researchers in the area of nano-scale heat transfer, in particular pertaining to improve heat dissipation performance in electronic cooling. While it is well known and documented that confining a macroscopic third layer between two dissimilar materials usually increases the overall interfacial thermal resistance, no research has realized the fundamental decrease in resistance so far. By performing nonequilibrium molecular dynamics simulations, we report that the overall interfacial thermal resistance can be reduced by 6 fold by confining mass graded materials with thickness of the order of nanometers. As comparison we also studied the thermal transport across the perfectly abrupt interface and the widely used alloyed (rough) interface, which shows an opposing and significantly large increase in the overall thermal resistance. With the help of frequency dependent interfacial thermal conductance and wave packet dynamics simulation, different mechanisms governing the heat transfer across these three types of interfaces are identified. It is found that for the rough interface there are two different regimes of interfacial heat transfer, which originates from the competition between phonon scattering and the thickness of the interface. The mechanism of dramatically improved interfacial heat transfer across the nano-confined mass graded interface resides in the minor phonon reflection when the phonons first reach the mass graded area and the rare occurrence of phonon scattering in the subsequent interior region. The phonons are found to be gradually truncated by the geometric interfaces and can travel through the mass graded layer with a high transmission coefficient, benefited from the small mass mismatch between two neighboring layers in the interfacial region. Our findings provide deep insight into the phonon transport across nano-confined mass graded layers and also offer significant guidance for designing advanced thermal interface materials.

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