Scientists have measured heat conduction through a monolayer of hydrocarbon chains using a novel technique. Researchers understand heat transfer on the scales of individual molecules and in solids, but there is still much to learn about the physics of heat transfer in just a few molecules that will be used in nanometer-scale electronics.

Zhaohui Wang and coauthors used a laser pulse to heat a gold substrate onto which a self-assembled monolayer of long-chain hydrocarbon molecules had been formed. The researchers used coherent vibrational spectroscopy to measure the heat conduction as it traveled through the chain of molecules via distinct vibrations. The heat flowed through the chains at about 1 kilometer per second in agreement with theoretical predictions.

“Ultrafast Flash Thermal Conductance of Molecular Chains,” by Z. Wang, J.A. et al., Science, 317, pp 787-90, DOI:10.1126/science.1145220
“Molecules Take the Heat,” by A. Nitzan, Science, 317 pp.759-60, DOI: 10.1126/science.1147011