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J Phys Condens Matter. 2014 Aug 20;26(33):335402. doi: 10.1088/0953-8984/26/33/335402. Epub 2014 Jul 31.

Ballistic heat conduction and mass disorder in one dimension.

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Institute of High Performance Computing, A*STAR, 138632 Singapore.


It is well-known that in the disordered harmonic chain, heat conduction is subballistic and the thermal conductivity (κ) scales asymptotically as lim(L--> ∞) κ ∝ L(0.5) where L is the chain length. However, using the nonequilibrium Green's function (NEGF) method and analytical modelling, we show that there exists a critical crossover length scale (LC) below which ballistic heat conduction (κ ∝ L) can coexist with mass disorder. This ballistic-to-subballistic heat conduction crossover is connected to the exponential attenuation of the phonon transmittance function Ξ i.e. Ξ(ω, L) = exp[-L/λ(ω)], where λ is the frequency-dependent attenuation length. The crossover length can be determined from the minimum attenuation length, which depends on the maximum transmitted frequency. We numerically determine the dependence of the transmittance on frequency and mass composition as well as derive a closed form estimate, which agrees closely with the numerical results. For the length-dependent thermal conductance, we also derive a closed form expression which agrees closely with numerical results and reproduces the ballistic to subballistic thermal conduction crossover. This allows us to characterize the crossover in terms of changes in the length, mass composition and temperature dependence, and also to determine the conditions under which heat conduction enters the ballistic regime. We describe how the mass composition can be modified to increase ballistic heat conduction.

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