Nano-scale 'vibrational wave' research could transform the field of materials physics
New UK research studying the vibrational properties of matter, or phonons, at the nanoscale, could bring transformational advances in the design and development of a new generation of advanced materials, such as thermoelectrics, among many others.
Thermoelectric materials are used in products that we rely on every day, capturing waste heat and recycling it into electricity, for example recovering heat that is generated when a car brakes to recharge its battery, or using body heat to power wearable health monitoring devices.
However, in the thermoelectric field as in many others, there is a growing requirement for new, higher performing materials to support the constant development of new applications, particularly in the automotive, medical and Internet of Things industries. The design of these new materials takes place quite literally one atom at a time, and thus requires powerful and versatile experimental techniques to probe how heat propagates through solids.
A UK-led team of physicists have published new research that provides a novel, powerful way to study ‘phonons’ - the collective oscillation of the nuclei of atoms, which can be thought of as waves that control the way that heat or sound carry through materials.