A novel nano-configuration for thermoelectrics: helicity induced thermal conductivity reduction in nanowires

V Varshney and AK Roy and DS Dudis and J Lee and BL Farmer, NANOSCALE, 4, 5009-5016 (2012).

DOI: 10.1039/c2nr30602f

In this article, we propose a novel helical nano-configuration towards the designing of high ZT thermoelectric materials. Non-equilibrium molecular dynamics (NEMD) simulations for 'model' bi-component nanowires indicate that a significant reduction in thermal conductivity, similar to that of flat superlattice nanostructures, can be achieved using a helical geometric configuration. The reduction is attributed to a plethora of transmissive and reflective phonon scattering events resulting from the steady alteration of phonon propagating direction that emerges from the continuous rotation of the helical interface. We also show that increasing the relative mass ratio of the two components lowers the phonon energy transmission at the interface due to differences in vibrational frequency spectra, thereby relatively 'easing' the phonon energy propagation along the helical pathway. While the proposed mechanisms result in a reduced lattice thermal conductivity, the continuous nature of the bi-component nanowire would not be expected to significantly reduce its electrical counterpart, as often occurs in superlattice/alloy nanostructures. Hence, we postulate that the helical configuration of atomic arrangement provides an attractive and general framework for improved thermoelectric material assemblies independent of the specific chemical composition.

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