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Nano Lett. 2014 May 14;14(5):2387-93. doi: 10.1021/nl404827j. Epub 2014 Apr 22.

Thermal conductivity of mechanically joined semiconducting/metal nanomembrane superlattices.

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  • 1Material Systems for Nanoelectronics, Technische Universität Chemnitz , 09111 Chemnitz, Germany.


The decrease of thermal conductivity is crucial for the development of efficient thermal energy converters. Systems composed of a periodic set of very thin layers show among the smallest thermal conductivities reported to-date. Here, we fabricate in an unconventional but straightforward way hybrid superlattices consisting of a large number of nanomembranes mechanically stacked on top of each other. The superlattices can consist of an arbitrary composition of n- or p-type doped single-crystalline semiconductors and a polycrystalline metal layer. These hybrid multilayered systems are fabricated by taking advantage of the self-rolling technique. First, differentially strained nanomembranes are rolled into three-dimensional microtubes with multiple windings. By applying vertical pressure, the tubes are then compressed and converted into a planar hybrid superlattice. The thermal measurements show a substantial reduction of the cross-sectional heat transport through the nanomembrane superlattice compared to a single nanomembrane layer. Time-domain thermoreflectance measurements yield thermal conductivity values below 2 W m(-1) K(-1). Compared to bulk values, this represents a reduction of 2 orders of magnitude by the incorporation of the mechanically joined interfaces. The scanning thermal atomic force microscopy measurements support the observation of reduced thermal transport on top of the superlattices. In addition, small defects with a spatial resolution of ∼100 nm can be resolved in the thermal maps. The low thermal conductivity reveals the potential of this approach to fabricate miniaturized on-chip solutions for energy harvesters in, e.g., microautonomous systems.

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