Physicists design material that conducts one way and insulates the other.
Stiffness and springiness could make heat stop and go.
European physicists have sketched out a blueprint for a valve that lets heat pass only one way. The proposed material conducts heat flowing in one direction, but also behaves as an insulator, stopping it going the other way1.
In theory, a heat valve could keep parts of microelectronic circuitry cool or channel heat to chip-sized chemical reactors, which are currently being developed for high-efficiency chemical synthesis or ultra-sensitive analysis.
Heat corresponds to the movement of atoms. When atoms are joined together in molecules, they vibrate back and forth. The larger the vibrations, the hotter the material.
Heat is conducted along a chain of particles because vibrations travel from one particle to the next. If one end is attached to a hot material and the other to something cooler, the hot end jiggles more. This jiggling goes down the chain to the cool end.
A chain of particles of identical weights linked by ideal, so-called harmonic springs vibrates at the same frequency irrespective of the amplitude of the vibrations. In real chains, like DNA, the links are not ideal, but anharmonic: their vibration frequency depends on amplitude.
One-way heat transfer would make use of anharmonicity. A chain divided into three sections, say Terraneos team, can insulate heat if the middle section acts like a strongly anharmonic spring while the outer two are softer and more harmonic.
If one of the end sections is stiffer than the other, more heat can flow in one direction than the other. The anharmonic middle of the chain can jiggle in sympathy with the stiff end when it is cold and the soft end when it is hot - but not vice versa. So the chain transmits heat from a hot, soft end to a cool stiff end. If the stiff end gets hot and the soft cold, the middle section blocks vibrations, so the chain as a whole acts as an insulator.
PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
Electrocatalysis can advance green transition
23.01.2017 | Technical University of Denmark
Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin
23.01.2017 | Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.01.2017 | Process Engineering