skip to main content

Title: Tuning network topology and vibrational mode localization to achieve ultralow thermal conductivity in amorphous chalcogenides
Abstract Amorphous chalcogenide alloys are key materials for data storage and energy scavenging applications due to their large non-linearities in optical and electrical properties as well as low vibrational thermal conductivities. Here, we report on a mechanism to suppress the thermal transport in a representative amorphous chalcogenide system, silicon telluride (SiTe), by nearly an order of magnitude via systematically tailoring the cross-linking network among the atoms. As such, we experimentally demonstrate that in fully dense amorphous SiTe the thermal conductivity can be reduced to as low as 0.10 ± 0.01 W m −1 K −1 for high tellurium content with a density nearly twice that of amorphous silicon. Using ab-initio simulations integrated with lattice dynamics, we attribute the ultralow thermal conductivity of SiTe to the suppressed contribution of extended modes of vibration, namely propagons and diffusons. This leads to a large shift in the mobility edge - a factor of five - towards lower frequency and localization of nearly 42% of the modes. This localization is the result of reductions in coordination number and a transition from over-constrained to under-constrained atomic network.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Polymers are a unique class of materials from the perspective of normal mode analysis. Polymers consist of individual chains with repeating units and strong intra-chain covalent bonds, and amorphous arrangements among chains with weak inter-chain van der Waals and for some polymers also electrostatic interactions. Intuitively, this strong heterogeneity in bond strength can give rise to special features in the constituent phonons, but such effects have not been studied deeply before. Here, we use lattice dynamics and molecular dynamics to perform modal analysis of the thermal conductivity in amorphous polymers. We find an abnormally large population of localized modes in amorphous polymers, which is fundamentally different from amorphous inorganic materials. Contrary to the common picture of thermal transport, localized modes in amorphous polymers are found to be the dominant contributors to thermal conductivity. We find that a significant portion of the localization happens within individual chains, but heat is dominantly conducted when localized modes involve two chains. These results suggest localized modes generally play a key role in thermal transport for different polymers. The results provide an alternative perspective on why polymer thermal conductivity is generally quite low and gives insight into how to potentially change it.

    more » « less
  2. Hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) has drawn keen interest as a thin-film semiconductor and superb passivation layer in high-efficiency silicon solar cells due to its low cost, low processing temperature, high compatibility with substrates, and scalable manufacturing. Although the impact of hydrogenation on the structural, optical, and electronic properties of a-Si:H has been extensively studied, the underlying physics of its impact on the thermal properties is still unclear. Here, we synthesize a-Si:H films with well-controlled hydrogen concentrations using plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition and systematically study the thermal conductivity of these a-Si:H films using time-domain thermoreflectance. We find that the reduction of thermal conductivity of a-Si:H films is attributed to the suppression of diffuson and propagon contributions as the hydrogen concentration increases. At the maximum hydrogen concentration of 25.4 atomic percentage, the contributions from diffusons and propagons to the thermal conductivity are decreased by 40% (from 1.10 to 0.67 W m −1 K −1 ) and 64% (from 0.61 to 0.22 W m −1 K −1 ), respectively. Such a significant reduction in the thermal conductivity of a-Si:H originates from the hydrogen induced material softening, the decrease in density, and phonon-defect scattering. The results of this work provide fundamental insights into the thermal transport properties of a-Si:H thin films, which is beneficial for the design and optimization of amorphous silicon-based technologies including photovoltaics, large-area electronics, and thermoelectric devices. 
    more » « less
  3. The thermal properties of Ba 3 Cu 2 Sn 3 Se 10 were investigated by measurement of the thermal conductivity and heat capacity. The chemical bonding in this diamagnetic material was investigated using structural data from Rietveld refinement and calculated electron localization. This quaternary chalcogenide is monoclinic ( P 2 1 / c ), has a large unit cell with 72 atoms in the primitive cell, and a high local coordination environment. The Debye temperature (162 K) and average speed of sound (1666 m s −1 ) are relatively low with a very small electronic contribution to the heat capacity. Ultralow thermal conductivity (0.46 W m −1 K −1 at room temperature) is attributed to the relatively weak chemical bonding and intrinsic anharmonicity, in addition to a large unit cell. This work is part of the continuing effort to explore quaternary chalcogenides with intrinsically low thermal conductivity and identify the features that result in a low thermal conductivity. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    An emerging chalcogenide perovskite, CaZrSe3, holds promise for energy conversion applications given its notable optical and electrical properties. However, knowledge of its thermal properties is extremely important, e.g. for potential thermoelectric applications, and has not been previously reported in detail. In this work, we examine and explain the lattice thermal transport mechanisms in CaZrSe3using density functional theory and Boltzmann transport calculations. We find the mean relaxation time to be extremely short corroborating an enhanced phonon–phonon scattering that annihilates phonon modes, and lowers thermal conductivity. In addition, strong anharmonicity in the perovskite crystal represented by the Grüneisen parameter predictions, and low phonon number density for the acoustic modes, results in the lattice thermal conductivity to be limited to 1.17 W m−1 K−1. The average phonon mean free path in the bulk CaZrSe3sample (N → ∞) is 138.1 nm and nanostructuring CaZrSe3sample to ~10 nm diminishes the thermal conductivity to 0.23 W m−1 K−1. We also find that p-type doping yields higher predictions of thermoelectric figure of merit than n-type doping, and values ofZT~0.95–1 are found for hole concentrations in the range 1016–1017 cm−3and temperature between 600 and 700 K.

    more » « less
    more » « less