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Phonon Lateral Confinement Enables Thermal Rectification in Asymmetric Single-Material Nanostructures

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journal contribution
posted on 2014-02-12, 00:00 authored by Yan Wang, Ajit Vallabhaneni, Jiuning Hu, Bo Qiu, Yong P. Chen, Xiulin Ruan
We show that thermal rectification (TR) in asymmetric graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) is originated from phonon confinement in the lateral dimension, which is a fundamentally new mechanism different from that in macroscopic heterojunctions. Our molecular dynamics simulations reveal that, though TR is significant in nanosized asymmetric GNRs, it diminishes at larger width. By solving the heat diffusion equation, we prove that TR is indeed absent in both the total heat transfer rate and local heat flux for bulk-size asymmetric single materials, regardless of the device geometry or the anisotropy of the thermal conductivity. For a deeper understanding of why lateral confinement is needed, we have performed phonon spectra analysis and shown that phonon lateral confinement can enable three possible mechanisms for TR: phonon spectra overlap, inseparable dependence of thermal conductivity on temperature and space, and phonon edge localization, which are essentially related to each other in a complicated manner. Under such guidance, we demonstrate that other asymmetric nanostructures, such as asymmetric nanowires, thin films, and quantum dots, of a single material are potentially high-performance thermal rectifiers.