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Understanding materials at the nanoscale for improved thermoelectric performance

   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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  Prof Ravi Silva  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

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

Supervisor: Professor Ravi Silva , Charles Footer (QinetiQ)

Entry requirements 

Open to UK students starting in January 2023

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our Advanced Technology Institute PhD programme.

First-class degree or equivalent or distinction at Masters.

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 should be submitted via the Advanced Technology Institute PhD programme page. In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor. 

Funding notes 

Stipend: £18,000 per annual for 3 years.Covering University (Home Fees) for 3 years. Funded by EPSRC iCASE award.


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