Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > How to treat heat like light: New approach using nanoparticle alloys allows heat to be focused or reflected just like electromagnetic waves

Thermal lattices, shown here, are one possible application of the newly developed thermocrystals. In these structures, where precisely spaced air gaps (dark circles) control the flow of heat, thermal energy can be "pinned" in place by defects introduced into the structure (colored areas).
Illustration courtesy of Martin Maldovan
Thermal lattices, shown here, are one possible application of the newly developed thermocrystals. In these structures, where precisely spaced air gaps (dark circles) control the flow of heat, thermal energy can be "pinned" in place by defects introduced into the structure (colored areas).

Illustration courtesy of Martin Maldovan

Abstract:
An MIT researcher has developed a technique that provides a new way of manipulating heat, allowing it to be controlled much as light waves can be manipulated by lenses and mirrors.

How to treat heat like light: New approach using nanoparticle alloys allows heat to be focused or reflected just like electromagnetic waves

Cambridge, MA | Posted on January 11th, 2013

The approach relies on engineered materials consisting of nanostructured semiconductor alloy crystals. Heat is a vibration of matter technically, a vibration of the atomic lattice of a material just as sound is. Such vibrations can also be thought of as a stream of phonons a kind of "virtual particle" that is analogous to the photons that carry light. The new approach is similar to recently developed photonic crystals that can control the passage of light, and phononic crystals that can do the same for sound.

The spacing of tiny gaps in these materials is tuned to match the wavelength of the heat phonons, explains Martin Maldovan, a research scientist in MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering and author of a paper on the new findings published Jan. 11 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

"It's a completely new way to manipulate heat," Maldovan says. Heat differs from sound, he explains, in the frequency of its vibrations: Sound waves consist of lower frequencies (up to the kilohertz range, or thousands of vibrations per second), while heat arises from higher frequencies (in the terahertz range, or trillions of vibrations per second).

In order to apply the techniques already developed to manipulate sound, Maldovan's first step was to reduce the frequency of the heat phonons, bringing it closer to the sound range. He describes this as "hypersonic heat."

"Phonons for sound can travel for kilometers," Maldovan says which is why it's possible to hear noises from very far away. "But phonons of heat only travel for nanometers [billionths of a meter]. That's why you could't hear heat even with ears responding to terahertz frequencies."

Heat also spans a wide range of frequencies, he says, while sound spans a single frequency. So, to address that, Maldovan says, "the first thing we did is reduce the number of frequencies of heat, and we made them lower," bringing these frequencies down into the boundary zone between heat and sound. Making alloys of silicon that incorporate nanoparticles of germanium in a particular size range accomplished this lowering of frequency, he says.

Reducing the range of frequencies was also accomplished by making a series of thin films of the material, so that scattering of phonons would take place at the boundaries. This ends up concentrating most of the heat phonons within a relatively narrow "window" of frequencies.

Following the application of these techniques, more than 40 percent of the total heat flow is concentrated within a hypersonic range of 100 to 300 gigahertz, and most of the phonons align in a narrow beam, instead of moving in every direction.

As a result, this beam of narrow-frequency phonons can be manipulated using phononic crystals similar to those developed to control sound phonons. Because these crystals are now being used to control heat instead, Maldovan refers to them as "thermocrystals," a new category of materials.

These thermocrystals might have a wide range of applications, he suggests, including in improved thermoelectric devices, which convert differences of temperature into electricity. Such devices transmit electricity freely while strictly controlling the flow of heat tasks that the thermocrystals could accomplish very effectively, Maldovan says.

Most conventional materials allow heat to travel in all directions, like ripples expanding outward from a pebble dropped in a pond; thermocrystals could instead produce the equivalent of those ripples only moving out in a single direction, Maldovan says. The crystals could also be used to create thermal diodes: materials in which heat can pass in one direction, but not in the reverse direction. Such a one-way heat flow could be useful in energy-efficient buildings in hot and cold climates.

Other variations of the material could be used to focus heat much like focusing light with a lens to concentrate it in a small area. Another intriguing possibility is thermal cloaking, Maldovan says: materials that prevent detection of heat, just as recently developed metamaterials can create "invisibility cloaks" to shield objects from detection by visible light or microwaves.

Written by David Chandler, MIT News Office

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Sarah McDonnell

617-253-8923

Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Nanobiotix Publishes Positive Phase 2/3 Data For Nanomedicine in Soft Tissue Cancer (Webcast June 22) June 22nd, 2018

Alzheimer's breakthrough: Brain metals that may drive disease progression revealed: In brains affected by Alzheimer's, researchers identify chemically reduced iron species, with mineral forms including a magnetic iron oxide June 22nd, 2018

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Physics

Evidence for a new property of quantum matter revealed: Electrical dipole activity detected in a quantum material unlike any other tested June 11th, 2018

Theory gives free rein to superconductivity at room temperature May 28th, 2018

Scientists Pinpoint Energy Flowing Through Vibrations in Superconducting Crystals: Interactions between electrons and the atomic structure of high-temperature superconductors impacted by elusive and powerful vibrations May 4th, 2018

New qubit now works without breaks: A universal design for superconducting qubits has been created April 19th, 2018

Discoveries

Alzheimer's breakthrough: Brain metals that may drive disease progression revealed: In brains affected by Alzheimer's, researchers identify chemically reduced iron species, with mineral forms including a magnetic iron oxide June 22nd, 2018

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Materials/Metamaterials

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Making quantum puddles: Physicists discover how to create the thinnest liquid films ever June 13th, 2018

Nickel ferrite promotes capacity and cycle stability of lithium-sulfur battery June 13th, 2018

Evidence for a new property of quantum matter revealed: Electrical dipole activity detected in a quantum material unlike any other tested June 11th, 2018

Announcements

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Nanobiotix Publishes Positive Phase 2/3 Data For Nanomedicine in Soft Tissue Cancer (Webcast June 22) June 22nd, 2018

Alzheimer's breakthrough: Brain metals that may drive disease progression revealed: In brains affected by Alzheimer's, researchers identify chemically reduced iron species, with mineral forms including a magnetic iron oxide June 22nd, 2018

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Military

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Powering the 21st Century with Integrated Photonics: UCSB-Led Team Selected for Demonstration of a Novel Waveguide Platform Which is Transparent Throughout the MWIR and LWIR Spectral Bands June 19th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries: Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries June 14th, 2018

Energy

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials: The new method adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws governing the interaction of electrons and light June 15th, 2018

Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries: Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries June 14th, 2018

Remote control of transport through nanopores: New study outlines key factors affecting the transfer of molecules through biological channels May 24th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project