Simulating and Probing Phonon and Electron Transport for Thermoelectric Applications

Gang Chen
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Efficient thermoelectric cooling and power generation calls for materials with high figure of merits, i.e., materials that have a high electrical conductivity and Seebeck coefficient, but a low thermal conductivity. Nanostructured materials, such as nanocomposites, have been shown experimentally as an effective approach to increase the figure of merit. Understanding and predicting electron and phonon transport in such structures, however, have proven to be challenging due to multiple length scales and complicated materials structures involved. In this presentation, I will discuss approaches we are taking to address these challenges. For the phonon transport, we use first-principles to simulate phonon mean free path and Green’s function for interface transmittance to provide inputs to the Monte Carlo simulation codes. We are also developing similar tools for electron transport. Experimental approaches to probe ballistic phonon transport, and coherent phonon transport will also be discussed. Dr. Gang Chen is currently the Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering and the head of Department of Mechanical 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 Center funded by the US DOE’s Energy Frontier Research Centers program.

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