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Pop Lab builds a heat shield 10 atoms thick

image of EE professor Eric Pop
August 2019

EE Professor Eric Pop's research was recently published in Science Advances.

Research in the Pop Lab has shown that a few layers of 2D materials can provide the same insulation as a sheet of glass 100 times thicker. "Thinner heat shields will enable engineers to make electronic devices even more compact than those we have today. We're looking at the heat in electronic devices in an entirely new way," reports Pop.

Detecting thermal vibrations
Thinking about heat as a form of sound inspired the Pop Lab researchers to borrow some principles from the physical world. "We adapted that idea by creating an insulator that used several layers of atomically thin materials instead of a thick mass of glass," said lead author Sam Vaziri, Electrical Engineering postdoc.

The team used up to four different compounds: graphene, molybdenum diselenide, molybdenum disulfide and tungsten diselenide – each three atoms thick – to create a four-layered insulator just 10 atoms deep. Despite its thinness, the insulator is effective because the atomic heat vibrations are dampened and lose much of their energy as they pass through each layer.

"As engineers, we know quite a lot about how to control electricity, and we're getting better with light, but we're just starting to understand how to manipulate the high-frequency sound that manifests itself as heat at the atomic scale," Pop said.


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This research was supported by the Stanford Nanofabrication Facility, the Stanford Nano Shared Facilities, the National Science Foundation, the Semiconductor Research Corporation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Stanford SystemX Alliance, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Stanford Graduate Fellowship program and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. (ANI)