RESEARCH PAPERS: Properties and Property Measurements

Size and Interface Effects on Thermal Conductivity of Superlattices and Periodic Thin-Film Structures

[+] Author and Article Information
G. Chen

Department of Mechanical Engineering and Material Science, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708

J. Heat Transfer 119(2), 220-229 (May 01, 1997) (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2824212 History: Received August 28, 1995; Revised December 20, 1996; Online December 05, 2007


Superlattices consisting of alternating layers of extremely thin films often demonstrate strong quantum size effects that have been utilized to improve conventional devices and develop new ones. The interfaces in these structures also affect their thermophysical properties through reflection and transmission of heat carriers. This work develops models on the effective thermal conductivity of periodic thin-film structures in the parallel direction based on the Boltzmann transport equation. Different interface conditions including specular, diffuse, and partially specular and partially diffuse interfaces, are considered. Results obtained from the partially specular and partially diffuse interface scattering model are in good agreement with experimental data on GaAs/AlAs superlattices. The study shows that the atomic scale interface roughness is the major cause for the measured reduction in the superlattice thermal conductivity. This work also suggests that by controlling interface roughness, the effective thermal conductivity of superlattices made of bulk materials with high thermal conductivities can be reduced to a level comparable to those of amorphous materials, while maintaining high electrical conductivities. This suggestion opens new possibilities in the search of high efficiency thermoelectric materials.

Copyright © 1997 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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