Coherent Phonon Heat Conduction in Superlattices

Science  16 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6109, pp. 936-939
DOI: 10.1126/science.1225549

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Coherent Heat Flow

Typically, heat in solids is transported incoherently because phonons scatter at interfaces and defects. Luckyanova et al. (p. 936) grew super-lattice films made from one to nine repeats of layers of GaAs and AlAs, each 12-nm thick. Thermal conductivity through this sandwich structure increased linearly with the number of superlattice repeats, which is consistent with theoretical simulations of coherent heat transport.


The control of heat conduction through the manipulation of phonons as coherent waves in solids is of fundamental interest and could also be exploited in applications, but coherent heat conduction has not been experimentally confirmed. We report the experimental observation of coherent heat conduction through the use of finite-thickness superlattices with varying numbers of periods. The measured thermal conductivity increased linearly with increasing total superlattice thickness over a temperature range from 30 to 150 kelvin, which is consistent with a coherent phonon heat conduction process. First-principles and Green’s function–based simulations further support this coherent transport model. Accessing the coherent heat conduction regime opens a new venue for phonon engineering for an array of applications.

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