Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship Program

"Thermophotonics: capturing waste heat as electricity"

About the Project

Project Time & Type:
Fall 2015 - DURI
Research area(s):
optics, photovoltaics, thermal radiation
Project Description:
Last year, 61% of raw energy (e.g., coal) consumption was wasted as heat. Recapturing this waste heat could greatly reduce raw energy consumption to save money and reduce environmental impact. There are several approaches to capturing waste heat. One strategy uses thermal radiation, typically from a blackbody emitter, to illuminate a photovoltaic (PV) diode, thus generating electricity. Typically, there are many losses limiting the efficiency of this approach. For example, the temperature difference between emitter and receiver requires us to separate the two, which creates a gap in which photons can be lost. Fortunately, introducing a selective emitter, filter, and waveguide to recycle unwanted photons could potentially greatly enhance performance, in an approach known as thermophotonics (TPX). This project will consider strategies to achieve TPX in an experimentally realistic fashion.
Expected Student Contributions:
In this DURI research project, you will utilize and modify a GUI-based simulation tool to precisely calculate the details of how special emitter and waveguide designs can help improve the thermal spectrum and subsequent photon recycling. Time permitting, we will also consider the role of optical, electronic, and thermal transport in the PV cell.
Related Website(s):
Desired Qualifications:
Familiarity with introductory mechanics and electromagnetism is required. A working ability to read and modify scientific code (e.g., in MATLAB) is also needed. Finally, the ability to quickly learn a new scientific topic is desired. Knowledge of the drift-diffusion and heat diffusion equations for current and heat transport is a plus. An understanding of basic (first-quantized) quantum mechanics, including Schrodinger’s equation and time-independent plus time-dependent first-order perturbation theory is a plus. Prior experience with Linux and shell scripts is a plus.
Estimated Weekly Hours:
Department awards independent research credits for this project?
Yes, 3 credit hours

Professor in Charge

Bermel, Peter
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Student Supervisor

Zhiguang Zhou
Graduate Research Assistant

Cooperating Faculty

Tim Fisher
Mechanical Engineering