Thermal Transport and Control in Symmetry-Breaking Quantum Materials and Devices

Interdisciplinary Areas: Micro-, Nano-, and Quantum Engineering

Project Description

The goal of this project is to investigate fundamentals of thermal transport in materials that exhibit symmetry breaking, which will enable greatly enhanced thermal transport and highly efficient thermal rectification. Interaction of helical light of different chirality with symmetry-breaking materials is manifested as an energy-carrying current in different directions, which provides a means of control of heat transport. Previous works at Purdue have demonstrated a large heat current carried by the chiral topological surface state (TSS) in topological insulators (TI) and a much larger, controllable thermoelectric effect resulting from modulating TSS using helicity of light. This project will further investigate and demonstrate enhancement and control of thermal transport. Four types of quantum materials with their unique energy carriers or energy transfer mechanisms will be investigated: (a) chiral TSS in 3D TIs, (b) chiral fermions in Wyle semimetals, (c) chiral phonons from inter-valley transition, and (d) chiral fermions arising from materials with intrinsic structural chirality. The project will have a large impact on thermal management of numerous emerging devices including quantum devices built upon these materials. It will also impact applications beyond thermal transport and thermal control to other areas including energy harvesting, sensing, and detection.

Start Date


Postdoc Qualifications

Ph.D. in, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Material Science, or relevant background for thermal transport and/or physics of transport in two-dimensional materials.


Xianfan Xu,, James J. and Carol L. Shuttleworth Professor of Mechanical Engineering,
Yong Chen,, Karl Lark-Horovitz Professor of Physics and Astronomy,
*Iyer, V., Chen, Y.P., and Xu, X., 2018, "Ultrafast Surface State Spin-Carrier Dynamics in the Topological Insulator Bi2Te2Se", Phys.Rev.Lett, 121, 026807 (2018)  DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.026807
*Luo, Z., Tian, J., Huang, S., Srinivasan, M., Maassen, J., Chen, Y.P., and Xu, X., 2018, " Large Enhancement of Thermal Conductivity and Lorentz Number in Topological Insulator Thin Films", ACS Nano, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b06430
*Huang, S., Miotkowski, I., Chen, Y.P., and Xu, X., 2020, "Deep tuning of photo-thermoelectricity in topological surface states", Scientific Rep., Vol. 10, pp. 16761.
*Jifa Tian, Seokmin Hong, Shehrin Sayed, Joon Sue Lee, Supriyo Datta, Nitin Samarth, Yong P. Chen, "On the understanding of current-induced spin polarization of three-dimensional topological insulators", Nature Communications 10, 1461 (2019) 
*Long Yuan, Ting-Fung Chung, Agnieszka Kuc, Yan Wan, Yang Xu, Yong P. Chen, Thomas Heine, Libai Huang, "Photocarrier Generation from Interlayer Charge-Transfer Transitions in WS2-Graphene Heterostructures", Science Advances 4,  e1700324 (2018)