Heat flow choking in carbon nanotubes

Hai Dong Wang, Bing Yang Cao, Zeng Yuan Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Based on Einstein's mass-energy relation, the equivalent mass of thermal energy or heat is identified and referred to as thermomass. Hence, heat conduction in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can be regarded as the motion of the weighty phonon gas governed by its mass and momentum conservation equations. The momentum conservation equation of phonon gas is a damped wave equation, which is essentially the general heat conduction law since it reduces to Fourier's heat conduction law as the heat flux is not very high and the consequent inertial force of phonon gas is negligible. The ratio of the phonon gas velocity to the thermal sound speed (the propagation speed of thermal wave) can be defined as the thermal Mach number. For a CNT electrically heated by high-bias current flows, the phonon gas velocity increases along the heat flow direction, just like the gas flow in a converging nozzle. The heat flow in the CNT is governed by the electrode temperature until the thermal Mach numbers of phonon gas at the tube ends reach unity, and the further reduction of the electrode temperature has no effect on the heat flow in the CNT. Under this condition, the heat flow is said to be choked and temperature jumps will be observed at the tube ends. In this case the predicted temperature profile of the CNT based on Fourier's law is much lower than that based on the general heat conduction law. The thermal conductivity which is determined by the measured heat flux over the temperature gradient of the CNT will be underestimated, and this thermal conductivity is actually the apparent thermal conductivity. In addition, the heat flow choking should be avoided in engineering situations to prevent the thermal failure of materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1796-1800
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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