CAREER: Exploring Novel Organic Thermoelectric Composites with Hierarchical Architecture and High Figure of Merit
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The research objective of this Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program project is to synthesize and characterize novel organic thermoelectric composites with hierarchical architecture and high figure of merit for efficient thermoelectric conversion. Thermoelectric conversion involves the conversion between thermal energy and electrical energy. This process can be used for power generation by harvesting various heat sources and it is renewable, reliable, and scalable. The efficiency of thermoelectric conversion is significantly determined by the material''s figure of merit. Organic materials hold promise for thermoelectric application due to their attractive features, such as lightweight, abundance, easy processing and environmentally-benign characteristics. However, their current figure of merit is very low, and significantly hindered their potential applications. In this work, original chemical and physical processing methods will be developed to synthesize novel hierarchical organic composites. The process-structure-property relationship will be investigated to tailor the hierarchical architecture for high figure of merit. The interfacial structure and thermoelectric behavior will be theoretically and experimentally investigated to understand carrier transport in the hierarchical composites, and then expand the limits of phonon and electronic transport for exceptional thermoelectric properties. If successful, the results of this research will enable a new method to design and synthesize nanostructures for desired bulk properties. The expected results will also result in a new class of organic thermoelectric materials for efficient thermoelectric conversion, and lay a foundation for harvesting renewable energy. The educational plan, which will be closely integrated with research efforts, will: (1) launch a new program for training engineering students with interdisciplinary knowledge and skills; 2) stimulate young students to pursue careers in science and engineering; 3) recruit and mentor minority students on cutting-edge nanotechnology research.