Office of Research, UC Riverside
Alexander Balandin
Distinguished Professor
Electrical & Computer Eng
balandin@ucr.edu
(951) 827-2351


Collaborative Research: EAGER: Enhancing Pyroelectric Effects in Nanostructured Materials for High-Efficiency Energy Conversion

AWARD NUMBER
007719-002
FUND NUMBER
33195
STATUS
Closed
AWARD TYPE
3-Grant
AWARD EXECUTION DATE
9/8/2015
BEGIN DATE
9/1/2015
END DATE
8/31/2017
AWARD AMOUNT
$75,000

Sponsor Information

SPONSOR AWARD NUMBER
1549942
SPONSOR
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
SPONSOR TYPE
Federal
FUNCTION
Organized Research
PROGRAM NAME

Proposal Information

PROPOSAL NUMBER
15121456
PROPOSAL TYPE
New
ACTIVITY TYPE
Basic Research

PI Information

PI
Balandin, Alexander A
PI TITLE
Other
PI DEPTARTMENT
Electrical & Computer Eng
PI COLLEGE/SCHOOL
Bourns College of Engineering
CO PIs

Project Information

ABSTRACT

A large amount of energy is lost as waste heat in many engineering systems such as automobiles and turbomachinery. Significant energy gains may be obtained by efficiently scavenging such waste heat through appropriate energy conversion mechanisms. One particularly promising opportunity lies in the conversion of temperature gradients in time into electricity, referred to as the pyroelectric effect. This project will utilize experiments and theoretical modeling to explore the pyroelectric effect in nanowires, and will build prototype pyroelectric-based energy harvesting microdevices. Research will help understand the nature of pyroelectric effect in nanowires, including the amount of energy that may be realistically harvested from nanowire based devices, performance limits, etc. which will help guide further development of potential energy conversion devices. All three institutions involved in this collaborative research are minority serving institutions located in highly populated Hispanic areas. PIs will leverage this opportunity to excite and recruit minority and women students to the emerging nano/microscale energy harvesting area. The PIs will carry out outreach to local high schools to excite K-12 students about energy harvesting, and encourage them to consider further STEM education and careers.

The technical goal of this combined experimental and theoretical-simulation research is to measure and characterize the pyroelectric effect in nanowires (GaN, ZnO, etc.) for developing micro- and nano-scale devices for thermal energy harvesting and sensors applications. Despite its potential to convert waste heat into usable electricity, the pyroelectric effect has been largely unexplored, in particular at the micro/nanoscale. This is partially due to lack of methodologies for characterization of this effect at small scales. Recent theoretical findings suggest a dramatically higher pyroelectric coefficient in nanowires, similar to enhancements observed in thermoelectric and piezoelectric performance of nanowires, albeit this prediction has not been confirmed experimentally. In this effort, a methodology based on microfabricated devices will be developed to quantitatively measure and characterize the pyroelectric properties of individual suspended nanowires. In addition, theoretical models and computational tools will be developed for (i) interpretation and analysis of the experimental pyroelectric data; (ii) prediction of the pyroelectric response of various nanostructured materials (individual nanowires; nanowires arrays); and (iii) optimization of the nanostructure parameters (material composition, size, shape, interface) for enhancing the pyroelectric voltage. The proposed models will include strong non-uniformity of the polarization distribution in nanostructures and possible phonon and electron confinement effects. Based on the learning from experiment and theory, prototype pyroelectric-based energy harvesting microdevices will be built using a single and an array of nanowires. Experimental data on pyroelectric coefficient of nanowires and dependence on nanowire size, temperature, etc. will contribute to the fundamental understanding of this effect. A fundamental understanding of pyroelectric transport in single nanowires may lead to a new paradigm of high efficiency energy conversion devices that take advantage of nanoscale engineering of materials to optimize pyroelectric performance.
(Abstract from NSF)