Phononic heat conductance of gold atomic contacts: Coherent versus incoherent transport

F Muller and P Nielaba and JC Cuevas and F Pauly, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 106, 195401 (2022).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.106.195401

We present here a theoretical method to determine the phononic contribution to the thermal conductance of nanoscale systems in the phase-coherent regime. Our approach makes use of classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to calculate the temperature-dependent dynamical matrix, and the phononic heat conductance is subsequently computed within the Landauer-Buttiker formalism with the help of nonequilibrium Green's function techniques. Tailored to nanostructures, crucial steps of force constant and heat transport calculations are performed directly in real space. As compared to conventional density functional theory (DFT) approaches, the advantage of our method is twofold. First, interatomic interactions can be described with the method of choice. Semiempirical potentials may lead to large computational speedups, enabling the study of much larger systems. Second, the method naturally takes into account the temperature dependence of atomic force constants, an aspect that is ignored in typical static DFT-based calculations. We illustrate our method by analyzing the temperature dependence of the phononic thermal conductance of gold (Au) chains with lengths ranging from 1 to 12 atoms. Moreover, in order to evaluate the importance of anharmonic effects in these atomic-scale wires, we compare the phase-coherent approach with nonequilibrium MD (NEMD) simulations. We find that the predictions of the phase-coherent method and the classical NEMD approach largely agree above the Debye temperature for all studied chain lengths, which shows that heat transport is coherent and that our phase-coherent approach is well suited for such nanostructures.

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