Thermal insulator transition induced by interface scattering


B. Slovick and S. Krishnamurthy, Appl. Phys. Lett. 109, 141905 (2016).


We develop an effective medium model of thermal conductivity that accounts for both percolation and interface scattering. This model accurately explains the measured increase and decrease of thermal conductivity with loading in composites dominated by percolation and interface scattering, respectively. Our model further predicts that strong interface scattering leads to a sharp decrease in thermal conductivity, or an insulator transition, at high loadings when conduction through the matrix is restricted and heat is forced to diffuse through particles with large interface resistance. The accuracy of our model and its ability to predict transitions between insulating and conducting states suggest it can be a useful tool for designing materials with low or high thermal conductivity for a variety of applications.

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