Studying phonon mean free paths at the nanoscale : modeling and experiments
Studying phonon MFPs at the nanoscale : modeling and experiments
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering.
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Heat conduction in semiconductors and dielectrics involves cumulative contributions from phonons with different frequencies and mean free paths (MFPs). Knowing the phonon MFP distribution allows us to gain insight into the fundamental microscopic transport physics and has important implications for many energy applications. The key metric that quantifies the relative contributions of different phonon MFPs to thermal conductivity is termed thermal conductivity accumulation function. In this thesis, we advance a thermal conductivity spectroscopy technique based upon experimental observation of non-diffusive thermal transport using wire grid linear polarizer in conjunction with time-domain thermoreflectance (TDTR) pump-and-probe measurement setup. Consistent algorithm based on solution from the phonon Boltzmann transport equation (BTE) is also developed to approximately extract the thermal conductivity accumulation functions in materials studied. The heat flux suppression function appropriate for the experimental sample geometry relates the measured apparent thermal conductivities to the material's phonon MFP distributions. We develop a multi-dimensional thermal transport model based on the gray phonon BTE to find the suppression function relevant to our spectroscopy experiment. The simulation results reveal that the suppression function depends upon both the heater size and the heater array period. We also find that the suppression function depends significantly on the location of the temperature measurement. Residual suppression effect is observed for finite filling fractions (ratio of heater size to heater array period) due to the transport coupling in the underlying substrate induced by the neighboring heaters. Prior phonon MFP spectroscopy techniques suffer from one or several of the following limitations: (1) diffraction limited to micrometer lengthscales by focusing optics, (2) applying only to transparent materials, or (3) involving complex micro-fabrications. We explore an alternate approach here using wire grid linear polarizer in combination with TDTR measurement. The wire grid polarizer is designed with sub-wavelength gaps between neighboring heaters to prevent direct photo-excitation in the substrate while simultaneously functioning as heaters and thermometers during the measurement. The spectroscopy technique is demonstrated in crystalline silicon by studying length-dependent thermal transport across a range of lengthscales and temperatures. We utilize the calculated heat flux suppression functions and the measured size-dependent effective thermal conductivities to reconstruct the phonon MFPs in silicon and achieve reasonably good agreement with calculation results from first principle density function theory. Knowledge of phonon MFP distributions in thermoelectric materials will help design nanostructures to further reduce lattice thermal conductivity to achieve better thermoelectric performance in the next-generation thermoelectric devices. We apply the developed wire grid polarizer spectroscopy technique to study phonon MFP distributions in two thermoelectric materials: Nb0.95 Ti0.05FeSb and boron-doped nanocrystalline Si80Ge20B. We find that the dominant phonon MFPs that contribute to thermal conductivity in those two materials are in the a few tens to a few hundreds of nanometers. The measurement results also shed light on why nanostructuring is an effective approach to scattering phonons and improve the thermoelectric behavior.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 2016.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 108-119).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology