Publications / Journal Article

Extrapolation of thermal conductivity in non-equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations to bulk scale

Talaat, Khaled; El-Genk, Mohamed S.; Cowen, Benjamin J.

Predictions of the bulk scale thermal conductivity of solids using non-equilibrium molecular dynamics (MD) simulations have relied on the linear extrapolation of the thermal resistivity versus the reciprocal of the system length in the simulations. Several studies have reported deviation of the extrapolation from linearity near the micro-scale, raising a concern of its applicability to large systems. To investigate this issue, present work conducted extensive MD simulations of silicon with two different potentials (EDIP and Tersoff-II) for unprecedented length scales up to 10.3 μm and simulation times up to 530 ns. For large systems ≥0.35 μm in size the non-linearity of the extrapolation of the reciprocal of the thermal conductivity is mostly due to ignoring the dependence of the thermal conductivity on temperature. To account for such dependence, the present analysis fixes the temperature range for determining the gradient for calculating the thermal conductivity values. However, short systems ≤0.23 μm in size show significant non-linearity in the calculated thermal conductivity values using a temperature window of 500 ± 10 K from the simulations results with the EDIP potential. Since these system sizes are shorter than the mean phonon free path in EDIP (~0.22 μm), the nonlinearity may be attributed to phonon transport. For the MD simulations with the Tersoff-II potential there is no significant non-linearity in the calculated thermal conductivity values for systems ranging in size from 0.05 to 5.4 μm.