Thermoelectric materials have the potential to convert waste heat into electricity, but their thermoelectric efficiency must be improved before they are effective and economically viable. One promising route to improving thermoelectric efficiency in thin-film thermoelectric materials is to reduce the material’s thermal conductivity through nanopatterning the surface. In this work nanoscale phononic resonators are introduced to the surface, and their potential to reduce thermal conductivity is explored via coupled experimental and theoretical techniques. Atomistic modelling is used to predict the dependence of the thermal conductivity on different design parameters and used to guide the design and fabrication of silicon fishbone nanostructures. The nanostructure design incorporates a variation on design parameters such as barb length, width and spacing along the shaft length to enable correlation with changes in thermal conductivity. The thermal characteristics of the nanostructures are investigated experimentally using the spatial resolution of scanning thermal microscopy to correlate changes in thermal conductivity with the changes in the structure parameters. The method developed uses a microheater to establish a temperature gradient along the structure which will be affected by any local variations in thermal conductivity. The impact on the thermal gradient and consequently on the tip temperature is modelled using finite element computer simulations. Experimental changes as small as 7.5% are shown to be detectable in this way. Despite the experimental technique being shown to be able to detect thermal changes far smaller than those predicted by the modelling, no modifications of the thermal conductivity are detected. It is concluded that in order to realise the effects of phononic resonators to reduce thermal conductivity, that much smaller structures with a greater ratio of resonator to shaft will be needed.
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© 2023 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.
- phononic resonance
- thermal conductivity