silica, carbon nanotube, thin films, insulation, MEMS, thermal barrier, aerogel


The fabrication and examination of a porous silica thin film, potentially for use as an insulating thin film, were investigated. A vertically aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) forest, created by chemical vapor deposition (CVD), was used as scaffolding to construct the porous film. Silicon was deposited on the CNT forest using low-pressure CVD (LPCVD) and then oxidized to remove the CNTs and convert the silicon to silica for electrical or thermal passivation (e.g., thermal barrier). Thermal conductivity was determined using a 1D heat-transfer analysis that equated radiative heat loss in a vacuum with conduction through the substrate and thin film stack. A comparison of the surface temperature differences between a sample film and a reference of comparable thermal resistance enabled determination of the increase in the thermal resistance and of the thermal conductivity of the films. For film thicknesses of approximately 55 μm, the cross-plane thermal conductivity was found to be 0.054−0.071 W m−1 K−1 over 378−422 K. This thermal conductivity value is in the range of other silica aerogels and consistent with the low gravimetric density of 0.15 g cm−3 for the samples. The film is also relatively smooth and flat, with an average arithmetic mean roughness of 1.04 μm.

Original Publication Citation

Syme, D. B., Lund, J. M., Jensen, B. D., Davis, R. C., Vanfleet, R. R., and Iverson, B. D., 2020, “Porous silica nanotube thin films as thermally insulating barrier coatings,” ACS Applied Nano Materials, 3(4), pp. 3168–3173. DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.0c00596

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



ACS Applied Nano Materials




Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor