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Thermoelectric Energy Conversion: Transport, Materials, and Systems

By Gang Chen

Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA

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Thermoelectric devices exploit thermal energy carried by electrical charges for the conversion between heat and electricity for cooling, heating, and power generation applications. The efficiency of thermoelectric energy conversion systems depends on the materials thermoelectric figure of merit, heat source temperatures, and heat transfer in and out of the devices. This talk will start with an introduction to thermoelectric effects, and move on to discuss ways to understand and engineer electron and phonon transport in thermoelectric materials to improve the figure of merit. On phonon transport, thermal conductivity spectroscopy and coherent heat conduction will be discussed. Modulation doping in 3D random structures and invisibility of nanoparticles to electron transport will be explored for improving the electron performance. Device and system challenges will be discussed, with a focus on solar thermoelectric energy conversion, including the demonstration of flat-panel solar thermoelectric generators at 4.6% efficiency with no optical concentration.


Dr. Gang Chen is currently the Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from UC Berkeley in 1993 working under then Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien. He was a faculty member at Duke University (1993-1997), University of California at Los Angeles (1997-2001), before joining MIT in 2001. He is a recipient of the NSF Young Investigator Award, the ASME Heat Transfer Memorial Award, the R&D100 Award, and the MIT McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising. He is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, a Guggenheim Fellow, an AAAS Fellow, and an ASME Fellow. He has published extensively in the area of nanoscale energy transport and conversion and nanoscale heat transfer. He is the director of Solid-State Solar-Thermal Energy Conversion (S3TEC) Center funded by the US DOE’s Energy Frontier Research Centers program.

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Mechanical Engineering Graduate Seminar Series

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Gang Chen (2012), "Thermoelectric Energy Conversion: Transport, Materials, and Systems,"

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ME 1061, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

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