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Symmetry-Adapted Phonon Analysis of Nanotubes

Kaushik Dayal's picture

This is the preprint of an article that has appeared in JMPS (

Symmetry-Adapted Phonon Analysis of Nanotubes

by Amin Aghaei and Kaushik Dayal, Carnegie Mellon University; Ryan Elliott, University of Minnesota



The characteristics of phonons, i.e. linearized normal modes of vibration, provide important insights into many aspects of crystals, e.g. stability and thermodynamics.  In this paper, we use the Objective Structures framework to make concrete analogies between crystalline phonons and normal modes of vibration in non-crystalline but highly symmetric nanostructures.  Our strategy is to use an intermediate linear transformation from real-space to an intermediate space in which the Hessian matrix of second derivatives is block-circulant.  The block-circulant nature of the Hessian enables us to then follow the procedure to obtain phonons in crystals: namely, we use the Discrete Fourier Transform from this intermediate space to obtain a block-diagonal matrix that is readily diagonalizable.  We formulate this for general Objective Structures and then apply it to study carbon nanotubes of various chiralities that are subjected to axial elongation and torsional deformation.  We compare the phonon spectra computed in the Objective Framework with spectra computed for armchair and zigzag nanotubes.  We also demonstrate the approach by computing the Density of States.  In addition to the computational efficiency afforded by Objective Structures in providing the transformations to almost-diagonalize the Hessian, the framework provides an important conceptual simplification to interpret the phonon curves.  Our findings include that, first, not all non-optic long-wavelength modes are zero energy and conversely not all zero energy modes are long-wavelength; second, the phonon curves accurately predict both the onset as well as the soft modes for instabilities such as torsional buckling; and third, unlike crystals where phonon stability does not provide information on stability with respect to non-rank-one deformation modes, phonon stability in nanotubes is sufficient to guarantee stability with respect to all perturbations that do not involve structural modes.  Our finding of characteristic oscillations in the phonon curves motivates a simple one-dimensional geometric nonlocal model of energy transport in generic Objective Structures.  The model shows the interesting interplay between energy transport along axial and helical directions.

PDF icon aghaei-dayal-2012.pdf4.65 MB


jiangyuli's picture

Very interesting, Kaushik. I look forward to studying it more carefully.

Can you calculate thermal conductivity using this? As you know, we are working on thermoelectrics, and thermal conductivity is a huge issue there. If you can come up with a design that minimizes thermal conductivity, similar to photonic crystals, that will be huge.

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