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.