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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2017 Jul 19;19(28):18407-18415. doi: 10.1039/c7cp02982a.

The role of optical phonons in intermediate layer-mediated thermal transport across solid interfaces.

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Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.


Thermal transport across solid interfaces plays important roles in many applications, especially in the thermal management of modern power electronics. In this study, we use non-equilibrium MD (NEMD) simulations to systematically study a model SiC/GaN interface, which is an important interface in GaN-based power electronics, mated by different intermediate layers (ILs) with the focus on how the atomic masses of the ILs influence the overall thermal conductance. To isolate the mass effect, the Tersoff potential with the same parameters is used to approximate the interatomic interactions between all atoms, with the only differences between materials being their atomic masses. The NEMD results show that the thermal boundary conductance (TBC) of IL-mated interfaces depends not only on the total primitive cell mass of the IL but also on the relative masses of the atoms within the unit cell. By analyzing the vibrational power spectra (VPS) of SiC, IL, and GaN, it is found that the optical phonons play important roles in thermal transport across the solid/solid interfaces. There is an optimal mass ratio of the atoms in the unit cell of the IL that can maximize the overlap of IL optical phonon VPS with those of SiC and GaN. Furthermore, the atomic masses of a number of III-V semiconductor compounds are studied for the ILs. It is shown that when only considering the mass effect, in the classical limit, AlN will be the best IL to enhance thermal transport across SiC/GaN interfaces with an improvement of as much as 27% over that of a pristine SiC/GaN interface. Despite the known limitation of the model (e.g., absence of strain and quantum effects), the results from this work may still provide some useful information for the design of ILs to improve thermal transport across solid/solid interfaces.


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