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Sci Rep. 2015 Nov 27;5:17131. doi: 10.1038/srep17131.

Measuring Phonon Mean Free Path Distributions by Probing Quasiballistic Phonon Transport in Grating Nanostructures.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, United States.
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 91106, United States.
Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, United States.


Heat conduction in semiconductors and dielectrics depends upon their phonon mean free paths that describe the average travelling distance between two consecutive phonon scattering events. Nondiffusive phonon transport is being exploited to extract phonon mean free path distributions. Here, we describe an implementation of a nanoscale thermal conductivity spectroscopy technique that allows for the study of mean free path distributions in optically absorbing materials with relatively simple fabrication and a straightforward analysis scheme. We pattern 1D metallic grating of various line widths but fixed gap size on sample surfaces. The metal lines serve as both heaters and thermometers in time-domain thermoreflectance measurements and simultaneously act as wire-grid polarizers that protect the underlying substrate from direct optical excitation and heating. We demonstrate the viability of this technique by studying length-dependent thermal conductivities of silicon at various temperatures. The thermal conductivities measured with different metal line widths are analyzed using suppression functions calculated from the Boltzmann transport equation to extract the phonon mean free path distributions with no calibration required. This table-top ultrafast thermal transport spectroscopy technique enables the study of mean free path spectra in a wide range of technologically important materials.

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