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Thermal conductivity decomposition in two-dimensional materials: Application to graphene


Two-dimensional materials have unusual phonon spectra due to the presence of flexural (out-of-plane) modes. Although molecular dynamics simulations have been extensively used to study heat transport in such materials, conventional formalisms treat the phonon dynamics isotropically. Here, we decompose the microscopic heat current in atomistic simulations into in-plane and out-of-plane components, corresponding to in-plane and out-of-plane phonon dynamics, respectively. This decomposition allows for direct computation of the corresponding thermal conductivity components in two-dimensional materials. We apply this decomposition to study heat transport in suspended graphene, using both equilibrium and nonequilibrium molecular dynamics simulations. We show that the flexural component is responsible for about two-thirds of the total thermal conductivity in unstrained graphene, and the acoustic flexural component is responsible for the logarithmic divergence of the conductivity when a sufficiently large tensile strain is applied.

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