Observation of superdiffusive phonon transport in aligned atomic chains

Lin Yang, Yi Tao, Yanglin Zhu, Manira Akter, Ke Wang, Zhiliang Pan, Yang Zhao, Qian Zhang, Ya Qiong Xu, Renkun Chen, Terry T. Xu, Yunfei Chen, Zhiqiang Mao, Deyu Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Fascinating phenomena can occur as charge and/or energy carriers are confined in one dimension1–4. One such example is the divergent thermal conductivity (κ) of one-dimensional lattices, even in the presence of anharmonic interatomic interactions—a direct consequence of the Fermi–Pasta–Ulam–Tsingou paradox proposed in 19555. This length dependence of κ, also known as superdiffusive phonon transport, presents a classical anomaly of continued interest6–9. So far the concept has remained purely theoretical, because isolated single atomic chains of sufficient length have been experimentally unattainable. Here we report on the observation of a length-dependent κ extending over 42.5 µm at room temperature for ultrathin van der Waals crystal NbSe3 nanowires. We found that κ follows a 1/3 power law with wire length, which provides experimental evidence pointing towards superdiffusive phonon transport. Contrary to the classical size effect due to phonon-boundary scattering, the observed κ shows a 25-fold enhancement as the characteristic size of the nanowires decreases from 26 to 6.8 nm while displaying a normal–superdiffusive transition. Our analysis indicates that these intriguing observations stem from the transport of one-dimensional phonons excited as a result of elastic stiffening with a fivefold enhancement of Young’s modulus. The persistent divergent trend of the observed thermal conductivity with sample length reveals a real possibility of creating novel van der Waals crystal-based thermal superconductors with κ values higher than those of any known materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)764-768
Number of pages5
JournalNature nanotechnology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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