Heat is generated in practically every activity of modern life. Applications from large-scale energy production to nanoscale electronics rely on materials that are capable of effectively transporting the generated heat. Although the electrical conductivity can range widely from being superconducting to perfectly insulating in different materials, the thermal conductivity is confined to a relatively small range, which limits the performance and reliability of electronic, optoelectronic, and thermoelectric devices. Diamond currently holds the highest thermal conductivity record in known bulk materials. However, natural diamond is expensive, while synthetic diamond is still limited by its slow growth rate and high defect density. In this project that is supported by the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in the US Department of Defense (DOD), the goal is to accelerate scientific discoveries and technological developments of new bulk and thin film materials with the thermal conductivity approaching or exceeding the diamond record.
Led by the University of Texas at Austin, this multidisciplinary research effort engages leading experts in materials theory, synthesis, characterization, and device fabrication from Boston College, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Houston, University of Texas at Dallas, Naval Research Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Northrop Grumman Corporation. The multifaceted approach includes establishing advanced first principles theoretical computation tools and unique experimental approaches to identify, synthesize, and characterize new materials with potentially ultrahigh thermal conductivity. New materials developed in this program are integrated into functional devices to enhance the performance and reliability.