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Atomistic Mechanisms of Enhancing Energy Conversion Efficiency of Nanostructured Thermoelectrics

[+] Author Affiliations
Ming Hu, Dimos Poulikakos

ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

Xiaoliang Zhang

ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland; Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Konstantinos P. Giapis

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

Paper No. IMECE2011-62431, pp. 1695-1702; 8 pages
  • ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 4: Energy Systems Analysis, Thermodynamics and Sustainability; Combustion Science and Engineering; Nanoengineering for Energy, Parts A and B
  • Denver, Colorado, USA, November 11–17, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5490-7
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


Nonequilibrium molecular dynamics (NEMD) simulations are performed to investigate possible mechanisms for enhancing the energy conversion efficiency of thermoelectric nanowires, including 1) surface roughening, 2) incorporating nano-particles on the surface or inclusions in the nanowires, and 3) inducing interfacial interference by covering the nanowire surface with other coatings. The enhancement in energy conversion efficiency is measured in terms of thermal conductivity of the nanowire, which is obtained by imposing a one-dimensional heat flux in the longitudinal direction of the nanowire. Our simulation results show that, compared to pristine nanowires, all generated nanocomposite structures proposed above were found to have considerably lower thermal conductivity (up to 78% reduction was achieved), implying ∼ 5 times enhancement in the ZT coeficient. The realizable approaches herein, open up new fundamental ways to improve markedly the energy conversion efficiency of nanostructured thermoelectrics.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME



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