Understanding materials at the nanoscale for improved thermoelectric performance

The aim of this PhD is to create a fundamental understanding of thermoelectric (TE) performance of a benchmark TE material system (e.g. Bi2Te3) in various nanostructures characterizing the materials to gain insights on fundamental nanostructure-conductivity mechanisms. From this benchmarking, dedicated nano-systems of earth-abundant materials will be investigated to transfer the fundamental understanding in an effort to design novel materials systems with greater figure-of merit values (ZT) than the current best-in-class (Bi2Te3).

Start date
1 October 2021
Duration
4 years
Application deadline
Funding information
  • EPSRC iCASE award
  • Covering University (home fees) for four years
  • Stipend: £18,000 per annual for four years

About

The aim of this iCASE is to create a fundamental understanding of thermoelectric (TE) performance of a benchmark TE material system (e.g. Bi2Te3) in various nanostructures characterizing the materials to gain insights on fundamental nanostructure-conductivity mechanisms. From this benchmarking, dedicated nano-systems of earth-abundant materials will be investigated to transfer the fundamental understanding in an effort to design novel materials systems with greater figure-of merit values (ZT) than the current best-in-class (Bi2Te3).

The limited efficiency of thermoelectric generators (TEGs) has restricted their use despite the large amounts of waste heat generated from primary energy sources. Currently, commercial TEGs use Bi2Te3 having a figure of merit (ZT) performance of 1 at around room temperature but the scarcity of tellurium and the rigid device design further limits wide scale adoption of the technology.

A fundamental challenge in realizing high performance bulk TE materials is due to the fact that both the electrical and thermal conductivity are related via charge carrier concentration such that optimizing one parameter negatively impacts on the other. Through nano-structuring a large number of interfaces can be realized, increasing phono scattering and reducing thermal conductivity, and much research has been devoted to exploration of new TE nanomaterials to exploit this.

Linking material properties at the nanoscale with TE performance is a corner-stone of progressing the design of next generation TE materials. This has been explored in Si nanowire systems, but many effects contribute to ZT through various mechanisms such as band structure, interface scattering and localised lattice effects. With the emergence of new complex morphology nano-systems (e.g. carbon nanotubes) understanding structure-property relationships more is vital to ascribing microscopic effects to realising optimized materials with increased ZT values.

All facilities associated with the Advanced Technology Institute and Qinetiq at Farnborough relevant to the project will be made available to the successful candidate.

Eligibility criteria

Candidates must hold a first-class degree or equivalent or distinction at masters level.

This studentship is only available to UK students. 

IELTS requirements: For non-UK-based courses an English requirement of 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted via the Advanced Technology Institute PhD programme page.

Applicants are encouraged to contact Prof Ravi Silva to discuss their application

Please include a research proposal, your CV and two references. 


Application deadline

Contact details

S. Ravi P. Silva
20 ATI 01
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 689825
E-mail: S.Silva@surrey.ac.uk
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