We have created an electrically controlled phonon-driven thermal switch – Congrats Brian Foley!

We have recently demonstrated the ability to control phonon scattering rates at room temperature via the application of an electric field in lead zirconate titanate (PZT) thin films.  Upon application of the electric field, the ferroelastic domains reconfigure and influence the thermal conductivity with sub-second switching times.  This is the first demonstration of an active switch of phonon thermal conductivity at room temperature.  This work was recently published in Nano Letters (Nano Letters 15, 1791-1795 (2015)) – congrats Brian Foley on your exciting results and research that formed the core of this discovery.  This work was in collaboration with Dr. Jon Ihlefeld from Sandia National Laboratories.


Dynamic control of thermal transport in solid-state systems is a transformative capability with the promise to propel technologies including phononic logic, thermal management, and energy harvesting. A solid-state solution to rapidly manipulate phonons has escaped the scientific community. We demonstrate active and reversible tuning of thermal conductivity by manipulating the nanoscale ferroelastic domain structure of a Pb(Zr0.3Ti0.7)O3 film with applied electric fields. With subsecond response times, the room-temperature thermal conductivity was modulated by 11%.

This work was supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program at Sandia National Laboratories, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-13-1-0067), and the National Science Foundation (CBET-1339436). Sandia National Laboratories is a multipro- gram laboratory managed and operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-AC04−94AL85000. The authors wish to acknowledge the technical assistance of Mia Blea-Kirby, Garry Bryant, Benjamin Griffin, and John T. Gaskins. Critical review of this manuscript by Paul G. Clem, Thomas E. Beechem, and Jon-Paul Maria is greatly appreciated.

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