Strain controlled thermomutability of single-walled carbon nanotubes

ZP Xu and MJ Buehler, NANOTECHNOLOGY, 20, 185701 (2009).

DOI: 10.1088/0957-4484/20/18/185701

Carbon nanotubes are superior materials for thermal management and phononic device use due to their extremely high thermal conductivity and unique one-dimensional geometry. Here we report a systematic investigation of the effects of mechanical tensile, compressive and torsional strain on the thermal conductivity of single-walled carbon nanotubes using molecular dynamics simulation. In contrast to conventional predictions for solids, an unexpected dependence on the applied strain is revealed by the low-dimensional nature and tubular geometry of carbon nanotubes. Under tension, the thermal conductivity is reduced due to the softening of G-band phonon modes. Under compression- in contrast to the case for conventional theories for solids-geometric instabilities lower the thermal conductivity due to the scattering, shortening of the mean free path and interface resistance that arise from localized radial buckling. We find that when torsional strain is applied, the thermal conductivity drops as well, with significant reductions once the carbon nanotube begins to buckle. This thermomutability concept-the ability to control thermal properties by means of external cues-could be used in developing novel thermal materials whose properties can be altered in situ.

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