Summary of nanoTHERM

nanoTHERM – tailoring electronic and phononic properties of nanomaterials: towards ideal thermoelectricity is a CONSOLIDER-Ingenio 2010 research program that runs from 2010 to 2015. It aims at producing a considerable breakthrough in the understanding of the fundamental physics underlying thermoelectricity to produce next-generation thermoelectric materials and devices.

The main goal of nanoTHERM is to carry out basic research focused on the potentials of nanomaterials in thermoelectricity and to find the conditions which permit tailoring both their electrical and their thermal conductivity towards the realization of optimum thermoelectric properties in the low and high temperature regime. At present ZT>2 at room temperature appears to be a holy grail in the international thermoelectricity community and nanoTHERM has the ambitious aim to contribute considerably to this achievement by pushing to the limit the performance of thermoelectric materials by means of an intelligent, purpose-oriented nanostructuration. The new physics knowledge to be gained will benefit future developments in nanoscience, where low dimensionality, confinement and novel coupling phenomena acquire a new relevance. The more immediate impact of the proposed research is expected to be in the areas of cooling and electricity generation, waste heat recovery and energy harvesting.

Efforts are made on both experimental and theoretical sides. The experimental part covers the design and fabrication of novel nanoscaled-controlled materials and nanostructures with a high level of understanding of the underlying physics. It is also focused on the development of new characterization tools adapted to the size of the samples. The theoretical part of the project focuses on the modeling the phonon and heat transport properties in the nanostructures made of selected materials.

NanoTHERM partners bring together their world-class expertise including:

  • fundamental solid state physics, in terms of light-matter interaction and thermal transport, to study phonons in nanostructures;
  • modelling and simulation of such processes at the nanoscale;
  • material selection according to specific device-relevant properties, e.g. phonon-blocking, electron-transmitting crystal structures;
  • material characterisation techniques regarding the thermoelectric properties of nanostructured materials;
  • and designing and realising thermoelectric modules.