Thermal Transport in Nanostructured Materials: Working to Improve Efficiency in the Field of Thermoelectrics

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Various forms of thermal energy are being investigated and utilized as an alternative energy source. Thermoelectric devices are one such method that has the ability to provide thermal to electrical energy conversion, or be used as a cooling mechanism when power is input. The applications range from waste heat recycling=94to local electronic cooling needs. The performance of these devices largely depends on the films that provide thermoelectric effects. The thermoelectric figure of merit, ZT, is a standard measure of material efficiency and depends on electrical conductivity, Seebeck coefficient, and the thermal conductivity.

The investigation of thermal transport in thin films provides some insight and methods to reduce thermal conductivity in efforts to increase ZT. The presence of nanostructures in the films affects the transport of heat within the film and thus can be used to manipulate the thermal properties. This talk discusses the performance of nanostructured thin films as a potential material for thermoelectric energy conversion applications, as well as the material composition variations that can provide guidelines for finding low values of thermal conductivity.


Suzanne L. Singer Suzanne L. Singer received her mechanical engineering M.S. and Ph.D. in 2009 from the University of California at Berkeley, and her B.S. from the University of Arizona. Suzanne was a Ford dissertation fellow and a recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellowship. She also was a graduate student intern at Sandia National Laboratories during 2008-2009 working with the Tribal Energy Program, and the Photovoltaic Systems Evaluation Laboratory.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Suzanne Singer (2010), "Thermal Transport in Nanostructured Materials: Working to Improve Efficiency in the Field of Thermoelectrics,"

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Mechanical Engineering, Rm 256, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN