Solid-State Thermal Rectifier

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Science  17 Nov 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5802, pp. 1121-1124
DOI: 10.1126/science.1132898

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We demonstrated nanoscale solid-state thermal rectification. High-thermal-conductivity carbon and boron nitride nanotubes were mass-loaded externally and inhomogeneously with heavy molecules. The resulting nanoscale system yields asymmetric axial thermal conductance with greater heat flow in the direction of decreasing mass density. The effect cannot be explained by ordinary perturbative wave theories, and instead we suggest that solitons may be responsible for the phenomenon. Considering the important role of electrical rectifiers (diodes) in electronics, thermal rectifiers have substantial implications for diverse thermal management problems, ranging from nanoscale calorimeters to microelectronic processors to macroscopic refrigerators and energy-saving buildings.

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