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High Temperature Thermoelectric Materials

Thermoelectricity (TE) is a solid state phenomenon that directly converts heat energy into electric current due to the Seebeck effect.  TE materials are of great interest in renewable power generation applications, particularly in harvesting waste heat from sources such as home heating, cooking, automotive exhausts, and industrial process. In the US a total of 3000 trillion BTU/year of waste heat could be directly converted into electricity using TE technology. However, the impact of this technology is currently limited by the heavy use of toxic and rare (e.g. Bi2Te3, PbTe) materials with their low operating temperatures. Our group focuses on nanostructuring nitrides and oxides with tailored thermal and electrical properties for high temperature TE power generation. In order to become more familiar with high temperature thermoelectric materials and related ongoing projects, please see Thermoelectrics research subject.


Thermal Energy Harvesting through Thermoelectric Materials/Devices


Thermoelectric devices either convert heat to electric energy (Seebeck effect) or electric energy to heat (Peltier effect). Therefore, efficient and effective engineering designed thermoelectric materials/devices would be a great source to harvest wasted thermal energy in the building and other infrastructures. Our current research focus is to develop the next generation thermoelectric devices for thermal energy harvesting through III-nitride materials. To know more about projects on thermal energy harvesting, please see Thermoelectrics research subject.


Piezoelectric Materials for Actuator and Sensor 

Piezoelectric materials can convert mechanical or vibrational forces (e.g. wind, wave, pressure) into an electric current, and vice versa. This phenomenon is very useful for numerous applications including electric generation, sound detection, strain sensor and actuators. For instance, the earliest application of piezoelectric materials was an ultrasonic submarine detector developed during World War I. In the past century, the development of piezoelectric materials have directly benefited many industries including automotive, aerospace, computer, consumer electronics, military and biomedical, etc. Our work focuses on developing high efficient and cost-effective piezoelectric materials and devices using nitrides and oxides alloy. This work is in collaboration with Prof. Wenzhuo Wu at Industrial Engineering at Purdue University. For more information about the research projects on piezoelectric materials, please visit Piezoelectrics research tab.


Multi-Functional Building Materials & Systems

Multifunctional materials are composites integrating other functions to mechanical/structure attributes to create unique materials systems that can perform other functions, such as thermoelectric building materials, bio-composites sensors. For instance, fully degradable bio-composites with robust mechanical properties are of fundamental and practical interest for environmental and sustainability applications. Our interest in this area is to investigate the mechanical properties and biodegradability of natural fiber composites as a function of fiber/matrix interface through fiber surface functionalization. More information is available at Multi-Functional Building Materials research tab.