In this work, we measure the thermal conductivity of mesoporous silica and aerogel thin-films using a non-destructive optical technique: time domain thermoreflectance (TDTR). Due to the rough surfaces of the optically transparent silica-based films, we evaporate an Al film on a glass cover slide and fabricate the silica structures directly on the Al film, providing a “probe-through-the-glass” configuration for TDTR measurements. This allows the thermal conductivity of mesoporous silica and aerogel thin films to be measured with traditional TDTR analyses. As the thermoreflectance response is highly dependent on the thermal effusivity of the porous structures, we estimate the density of the films by varying the heat capacity in our analysis. This density determination assumes that the solid matrix in the silica structure has the thermal conductivity as bulk SiO2, which is valid if all the lattice vibrations are localized, consistent with the minimum thermal conductivity concept. We independently determine the density of the porous silica films with nitrogen sorption measurements of thin films using a surface acoustic wave (SAW) technique. The difference between the determined from the SAW technique and that estimated by the TDTR effusivity analysis lends insight into the relative contributions of localized and propagating modes to thermal transport.

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