Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics

First Advisor

Jennifer R. Lukes


Recent experiments have demonstrated that thermal properties of semiconductor nanostructures depend on nanostructure boundary geometry. Phonons are quantized mechanical vibrations that are the dominant carrier of heat in semiconductor materials and their aggregate behavior determine a nanostructure's thermal performance. Phonon-geometry scattering processes as well as waveguiding effects which result from coherent phonon interference are responsible for the shape dependence of thermal transport in these systems. Nanoscale phonon-geometry interactions provide a mechanism by which nanostructure geometry may be used to create materials with targeted thermal properties. However, the ability to manipulate material thermal properties via controlling nanostructure geometry is contingent upon first obtaining increased theoretical understanding of fundamental geometry induced phonon scattering processes and having robust analytical and computational models capable of exploring the nanostructure design space, simulating the phonon scattering events, and linking the behavior of individual phonon modes to overall thermal behavior. The overall goal of this research is to predict and analyze the effect of nanostructure geometry on thermal transport. To this end, a harmonic lattice-dynamics based atomistic computational modeling tool was created to calculate phonon spectra and modal phonon transmission coefficients in geometrically irregular nanostructures. The computational tool is used to evaluate the accuracy and regimes of applicability of alternative computational techniques based upon continuum elastic wave theory. The model is also used to investigate phonon transmission and thermal conductance in diameter modulated silicon nanowires. Motivated by the complexity of the transmission results, a simplified model based upon long wavelength beam theory was derived and helps explain geometry induced phonon scattering of low frequency nanowire phonon modes.

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