Nanocrystal superlattices as phonon-engineered solids and acoustic metamaterials

Phonon engineering of solids enables the creation of materials with tailored heat-transfer properties, controlled elastic and acoustic vibration propagation, and custom phonon-electron and phonon-photon interactions. These can be leveraged for energy transport, harvesting, or isolation applications and in the creation of novel phonon-based devices, including photoacoustic systems and phonon-communication networks.

Here we introduce nanocrystal superlattices as a platform for phonon engineering. Using a combination of inelastic neutron scattering and modeling, we characterize superlattice-phonons in assemblies of colloidal nanocrystals and demonstrate that they can be systematically engineered by tailoring the constituent nanocrystals, their surfaces, and the topology of superlattice. This highlights that phonon engineering can be effectively carried out within nanocrystal-based devices to enhance functionality, and that solution processed nanocrystal assemblies hold promise not only as engineered electronic and optical materials, but also as functional metamaterials with phonon energy and length scales that are unreachable by traditional architectures.