Nanotechnology-Enabled Direct Energy Conversion

By Gang Chen

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

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Energy transport in nanostructures differs significantly from macrostructures because of classical and quantum size effects on energy carriers such as on phonons, electrons, photons, and molecules. Nanoscale effects can be tailored to develop more efficient direct energy conversion technologies such as thermoelectrics, thermophotovotaics, etc.. In this talk, I will discuss a few examples out of our research in using nanoscale effects to improve the efficiency of direct energy conversion. The first example will be on nanostructured thermoelectric materials that explore the interface scattering to reduce the phonon thermal conductivity and to improve the thermoelectric figure of merit. The second example will explore interface effects to create nonequilibrium between electrons and phonons. We show that properly engineered interfaces can lead to an amplification of the nonequilibrium effects and improved thermal-to-electric energy conversion. In the third example, we will discuss the particularities of thermal radiation in nanostructures and their potentially applications to improve the efficiency of thermophotovoltaic energy conversion devices.


Dr. Gang Chen is currently a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from UC Berkeley in 1993. He was an assistant professor at Duke University from 1993-1997, and associate professor at University of California at Los Angeles from 1997-2000, and moved to MIT in 2000. He is a recipient of the NSF Young Investigator Award and a Guggenheim Fellow. He has published extensively in the area of nanoscale energy transport and conversion and nanoscale heat transfer, including a recently published book entitled "Nanoscale Energy Transport and Conversion". He serves on the editorial boards for four journals in heat transfer and nanotechnology.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Gang Chen (2005), "Nanotechnology-Enabled Direct Energy Conversion,"

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ME 256, Ford Seminar Room, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN