The Promise of Nanomaterials for Thermoelectric Applications

Speaker:Professor Mildred Dresselhaus
Affiliation:Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science , MIT
Location:Lidow Rosen Auditorium (323)

An introduction will be presented in setting the context of the world energy outlook as we look into the future global energy needs.  Thermoelectricity has played a small role on the energy scene in the past, but with an increase in the thermoelectric conversion efficiency, thermoelectric materials are likely to play an increasing role in the future.  Because of the special ability of nanomaterials to show a dependence of materials properties on size, it is possible to control properties in low dimensional materials systems that cannot be independently controlled in bulk materials.  Such independent control is especially promising for thermoelectric materials and this promise will be further discussed.  A discussion will then be presented about challenges facing the material physics field broadly and within this context we will discuss the promise of nanomaterials in addressing these challenges.  A summary will then be given on how we prepare bulk samples containing nanostructured constituents so that the promise of nanostructures can have wider practical applications.  Finally we show recent work using thermoelectric nanocomposites to achieve a significant enhancement in the performance of thermoelectric materials, with promise for achieving further enhancement in the future based on present knowledge and on advances in our scientific understanding.