Researchers from the University of Liverpool, along with colleagues from University College London and other scientists, have discovered the material with the lowest thermal conductivity.
In the new work, the authors, using the design on an atomic scale, have created a new material with a uniquely low thermal conductivity: it combines two structures, each of which slows down the rate of heat transfer through a solid.
The material we have discovered has the lowest thermal conductivity of any inorganic solids and conducts heat almost as poorly as air.
Matt Rosseinsky, professor and research leader
If we take the thermal conductivity of steel as a unit, then the index of the titanium rod will be 0.1; water and building bricks – 0.01; air – 0.0005; and 0.001 for new material.
In order to make such a material, the authors initially identified algorithms that reduce heat transfer in each of the two structures, and then created a combined arrangement of atoms that has a much lower thermal conductivity than either of the two starting materials.
The new study provides a basis for other similar experiments using atomistic interactions, and the new material can potentially be used for applications in thermoelectric devices, for example, for the development of thermal insulation coatings.