Imaging thermal conductivity with nanoscale resolution using a scanning spin probe

Abdelghani Laraoui, Halley Aycock-Rizzo, Yang Gao, Xi Lu, Elisa Riedo, Carlos A. Meriles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to probe nanoscale heat flow in a material is often limited by lack of spatial resolution. Here, we use a diamond-nanocrystal-hosted nitrogen-vacancy centre attached to the apex of a silicon thermal tip as a local temperature sensor. We apply an electrical current to heat up the tip and rely on the nitrogen vacancy to monitor the thermal changes the tip experiences as it is brought into contact with surfaces of varying thermal conductivity. By combining atomic force and confocal microscopy, we image phantom microstructures with nanoscale resolution, and attain excellent agreement between the thermal conductivity and topographic maps. The small mass and high thermal conductivity of the diamond host make the time response of our technique short, which we demonstrate by monitoring the tip temperature upon application of a heat pulse. Our approach promises multiple applications, from the investigation of phonon dynamics in nanostructures to the characterization of heterogeneous phase transitions and chemical reactions in various solid-state systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8954
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Nov 20 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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