Thermoelectric (TE) materials are promising candidates for converting waste heat directly into electricity. The main drawback of TE materials is the low conversion efficiency and can be possibly solved through development of multiphase TE nanocomposites. Recent nanostructured TE thin-films offer higher conversion efficiency by increasing the Seebeck coefficient and also reducing thermal conductivity, apparently due to low dimensionality.
The bulk properties of TE materials that make them appealing for current and future technologies can be more fully understood and improved through detailed knowledge of their domain structures at the nanoscale and mesoscale. My research involves developing experimental tools capable of measuring the electron and phonon transport phenomena in TE materials based on an atomic force microscopy (AFM) technique. This approach will provide thorough understanding of interfacial and functional gradient electron and phonon scattering mechanisms at sub-30 nm spatial resolution.
Advisor: Xiaosong Li