Ultimate suppression of thermal transport in amorphous silicon nitride by phononic nanostructure

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Science Advances  25 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 39, eabc0075
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc0075


Engineering the thermal conductivity of amorphous materials is highly essential for the thermal management of future electronic devices. Here, we demonstrate the impact of ultrafine nanostructuring on the thermal conductivity reduction of amorphous silicon nitride (a-Si3N4) thin films, in which the thermal transport is inherently impeded by the atomic disorders. Ultrafine nanostructuring with feature sizes below 20 nm allows us to fully suppress contribution of the propagating vibrational modes (propagons), leaving only the diffusive vibrational modes (diffusons) to contribute to thermal transport in a-Si3N4. A combination of the phonon-gas kinetics model and the Allen-Feldmann theory reproduced the measured results without any fitting parameters. The thermal conductivity reduction was explained as extremely strong diffusive boundary scattering of both propagons and diffusons. These findings give rise to substantial tunability of thermal conductivity of amorphous materials, which enables us to provide better thermal solutions in microelectronic devices.

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