Thermal conductivity reduction in core-shell nanowires

M Hu and XL Zhang and KP Giapis and D Poulikakos, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 84, 085442 (2011).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.84.085442

Nanostructuring of thermoelectric materials bears promise for manipulating physical parameters to improve the energy conversion efficiency of thermoelectrics. Using nonequilibrium molecular dynamics, we investigate how the thermal conductivity can be altered in core-shell nanocomposites of Si and Ge. By calculating the phonon vibrational density of states and performing normal mode analysis, we show that the thermal conductivity decreases when phonon-transport becomes diffusion- dominated and unveil a competition between modes from the various regions of the nanocomposite (core, interface, and shell). The effects of nanowire length, cross section, and temperature on thermal conductivity are explicitly considered. Surprisingly, the thermal conductivity variation with nanowire length is much weaker than in pure nanowires. Also, the thermal conductivity is almost independent of temperature in the wide region between 50 and 600 K, a direct result of confinement of the core by the shell. These results suggest that core- shell nanowires are promising structures for thermoelectrics.

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