Journal of Applied Physics

Processing dependent thermal conductivity of nanoporous silica xerogel films

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Sintered xerogel films (porous SiO 2) show a much higher thermal conductivity than other low dielectric constant (low-K) materials available for the same value of K. The thermal conductivity of xerogels which we have processed using different methods is compared with that of other low-K materials such as silica hybrid (silsesquioxanes) and polymeric low-K materials. The methods used were: (1) single solvent (ethanol) method, (2) binary solvent (mixture of ethanol and ethylene glycol) method, (3) sintering. For the xerogel films, we show that process history is as important as the chemistry of the solid matrix or the porosity in determining the thermal conductivity. The thermal conductivity, measured by the 3-ω method or the photothermal deflection method, is affected by phonon scattering, which in turn is effected by the size and distribution of pores and particles and the presence of imperfections such as interfaces, substituted chemical species, impurities, microcracks, and microporosity. The thermal conductivity extrapolated to zero porosity for porous sintered xerogel films approaches that of thermally grown SiO 2 indicating the least phonon scattering of all processing methods. For these films, the elastic modulus is proportional to thermal conductivity squared, in agreement with theories developed for materials with few defects and a connected matrix. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.