Negative Thermal Expansion of Ultrathin Metal Nanowires: A Computational Study

DT Ho and SY Kwon and HS Park and SY Kim, NANO LETTERS, 17, 5113-5118 (2017).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.7b02468

Most materials expand upon heating because the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE), the fundamental property of materials characterizing the mechanical response of the materials to heating, is positive. There have been some reports of materials that exhibit negative thermal expansion (NTE), but most of these have been in complex alloys, where NTE originates from the transverse vibrations of the materials. Here, we show using molecular dynamics simulations that some single crystal monatomic FCC metal nanowires can exhibit NTE along the length direction due to a novel thermomechanical coupling. We develop an analytic model for the CTE in nanowires that is a function of the surface stress, elastic modulus, and nanowire size. The model suggests that the CTE of nanowires can be reduced due to elastic softening of the materials and also due to surface stress. For the nanowires, the model predicts that the CTE reduction can lead to NTE if the nanowire Young's modulus is sufficiently reduced while the nanowire surface stress remains sufficiently large, which is in excellent agreement with the molecular dynamics simulation results. Overall, we find a "smaller is smaller" trend for the CTE of nanowires, leading to this unexpected, surface stress-driven mechanism for NTE in nanoscale materials.

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