Two orders of magnitude reduction in silicon membrane thermal conductivity by resonance hybridizations

H Honarvar and MI Hussein, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 97, 195413 (2018).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.97.195413

The thermal conductivity of a freestanding single-crystal silicon membrane may be reduced significantly by attaching nanoscale pillars on one or both surfaces. Atomic resonances of the nanopillars form vibrons that intrinsically couple with the base membrane phonons causing mode hybridization and flattening at each coupling location in the phonon band structure. This in turn causes group velocity reductions of existing phonons, in addition to introducing new modes that get excited but are localized and do not transport energy. The nanopillars also reduce the phonon lifetimes at and around the hybridization zones. These three effects, which in principle may be tuned to take place across silicon's full spectrum, lead to a lowering of the in-plane thermal conductivity in the base membrane. Using equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations, and utilizing the concept of vibrons compensation, we report a staggering two orders of magnitude reduction in the thermal conductivity at room temperature by this mechanism. Specifically, a reduction of a factor of 130 is demonstrated for a roughly 10-nm-thick pillared membrane compared to a corresponding unpillared membrane. This amounts to a record reduction of a factor of 481 compared to bulk crystalline silicon and nearly a factor of 2 compared to bulk amorphous silicon. These results are obtained while providing a path for preserving performance with upscaling.

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