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Realizing Nanoscale Quantitative Thermal Mapping of Scanning Thermal Microscopy

Quantitative assessment of thermal property by scanning thermal microscopy (SThM) is a demanded technology but still not available yet due to the presence of unpredictable thermal contact resistance (TCR) at tip/substrate interface. TCR is mainly affected by three major interfacial characteristics including surface roughness, hardness and contacting force. In this work, TCR is mathematically derived into linear and non-linear models based on the interfacial micro-characteristics. The models have the capability to predict TCR for both rough and smooth surfaces with satisfactory accuracy. With predictable TCR, the heat transport across the tip/substrate nanointerface can be precisely described and thus quantitative thermal properties can be predicted from SThM measurement. The models are tested in three polymeric material systems, PDMS, epoxy and PVA. Thermal conductivity from model prediction matches very well (<10% error) to the measured values from bulk polymer samples. Such models use general surface feature as inputs, so it has wide applicability to other similar materials especially polymers. Moreover, the model has been tested valid in doped PVA samples when extrapolated to predict thermal conductivity beyond the range of model development. This work extends the capability of SThM in quantitative measurement and enables a unique platform for thermal conductivity measurement at nanometer spatial resolution.

This paper highlights application of the C-Therm TCi Thermal Conductivity Analyzer.


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