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Thermoelectric properties of novel 2D materials and Van der Waals heterostructures

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, March 19, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description




Background. The discovery of graphene and first studies of its electrical and optical properties initiated the search of other two-dimensional (2D) materials with the properties complementing those of graphene. As a result, the whole range of 2D materials with insulating, semiconducting and superconducting properties have been isolated and studied. In an attempt to improve the transport properties of graphene an idea of the so-called van der Waals heterostructures (VdW) has been suggested and successfully realised [1]. Layers of different materials in these heterostructures are held together by the van der Waals forces which are particularly strong due to the atomic flatness of the 2D materials surface. Beside the improvement of transport and optical properties of monolayer 2D materials, the van der Waals heterostructures allowed fabrication of a variety of complex devices with unique properties and promising applications for electronics, energy and biomedicine. Despite intensive study of the 2D materials, little has been done in terms of the exploration of their thermal and thermoelectric properties [2-4]. Moreover, virtually no thermoelectric studies were carried out on new systems realised in VdW heterostructures [5]. It is quite surprising since the thermoelectric measurements can complement transport and optical experiments with valuable information on the density of states and charge carrier scattering.

Aims. You will have a choice of two main topics for your PhD project. First is the exploration of different 2D metal chalcogenides and assessment of their applicability for the future advanced thermoelectric devices. There is a number of layered materials with a potential for the thermoelectric applications. You will study thermal and thermoelectric properties (electrical and thermal conductivities, thermopower and thermoelectric figure of merit) of these materials and conclude on their possible use for energy harvesting or solid-state cooling.

The second topic is dedicated to the study of the thermoelectric properties of specific van der Waals heterostructures. Mainly, you will concentrate on the high-quality graphene structures sandwiched between hexagonal boron nitride and different metal dichalcogenides. This research has its focus on probing the fundamental electronic properties of the heterostructures using thermoelectric phenomena such as Seebeck and Nernst–Ettingshausen effects.

Tasks. For both potential projects you will be expected to engage in microfabrication of your own 2D material-based devices in the state-of-the-art cleanroom facility of the National Graphene Institute (NGI). You are also going to develop experimental set-up and perform thermoelectric and basic transport measurements of the fabricated devices using the variable temperature superconducting magnet measurement system based in the NGI. During your project you will be expected to master different material and device characterization techniques (Raman, AFM, SEM) and be able to carry out cryogenic experiments at high magnetic field.

[1] A. K. Geim and I. V. Grigorieva, Nature 499, 419 (2013).
[2] D. Kim et al., Nano Lett 14, 1701 (2014).
[3] J. Wu et al., Nano Lett 14, 2730 (2014).
[4] F. Ghahari et al., Phys Rev Lett 116 (2016).
[5] C. C. Chen et al., Nano Res 8, 666 (2015).

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in Physics, Material Science, or Electrical Engineering. Knowledge/MSc degree in one or more of the following areas would be very useful (but not essential): basic electronics, electrical engineering, cryogenics or microfabrication. Experience in LabView and/or MatLab programming would be an advantage too.

Funding Notes

Funding covers tuition fees and annual maintenance payments of at least the Research Council minimum (currently £14,777) for eligible UK and EU applicants. EU nationals must have lived in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the programme to be eligible for a full award (fees and stipend). Other EU nationals may be eligible for a fees-only award.

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