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Issue 21, 2017
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External electric field driving the ultra-low thermal conductivity of silicene

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The manipulation of thermal transport is in increasing demand as heat transfer plays a critical role in a wide range of practical applications, such as efficient heat dissipation in nanoelectronics and heat conduction hindering in solid-state thermoelectrics. It is well established that the thermal transport in semiconductors and insulators (phonons) can be effectively modulated by structure engineering or materials processing. However, almost all the existing approaches involve altering the original atomic structure of materials, which would be hindered due to either irreversible structure change or limited tunability of thermal conductivity. Motivated by the inherent relationship between phonon behavior and interatomic electrostatic interaction, we comprehensively investigate the effect of external electric field, a widely used gating technique in modern electronics, on the lattice thermal conductivity (κ). Taking two-dimensional silicon (silicene) as a model, we demonstrate that by applying an electric field (Ez = 0.5 V Å−1) the κ of silicene can be reduced to a record low value of 0.091 W m−1 K−1, which is more than two orders of magnitude lower than that without an electric field (19.21 W m−1 K−1) and is even comparable to that of the best thermal insulation materials. Fundamental insights are gained from observing the electronic structures. With an electric field applied, due to the screened potential resulting from the redistributed charge density, the interactions between silicon atoms are renormalized, leading to phonon renormalization and the modulation of phonon anharmonicity through electron–phonon coupling. Our study paves the way for robustly tuning phonon transport in materials without altering the atomic structure, and would have significant impact on emerging applications, such as thermal management, nanoelectronics and thermoelectrics.

Graphical abstract: External electric field driving the ultra-low thermal conductivity of silicene

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The article was received on 05 Mar 2017, accepted on 26 Apr 2017 and first published on 17 May 2017

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7NR01596H
Citation: Nanoscale, 2017,9, 7227-7234
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    External electric field driving the ultra-low thermal conductivity of silicene

    G. Qin, Z. Qin, S. Yue, Q. Yan and M. Hu, Nanoscale, 2017, 9, 7227
    DOI: 10.1039/C7NR01596H

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