Introduction: Nano and Energy

The Big Picture

The United States consumes primary energy at a rate of approximately 3.3 x 1012 W (3.3 terawatts). On a more human scale, for every US resident this averages out to approximately:
  • 11 kW (15 hp) of continuous energy consumption per person, nonstop.
  • Oil imports: 5.4 L (1.4 gal) per person, per day.
  • CO2 emissions: 44 kg (96 lbs) per person, per day (energy sector only).
The conversion efficiencies of most sectors are far below the fundamental requirements of the laws of thermodynamics, so there is abundant room for improved technologies. For example, in the transportation sector only about 20% of the fuel energy is applied usefully, with the remaining 700 GW rejected as waste heat. Fuel economy, renewable energy, and efficient power plants are several of the handful of strategies with the potential to make a major difference in global energy consumption and its impacts. (References: LLNL, EIA)

The Nano Picture

Various physical phenomena cause the properties of nanostructures to differ from their bulk counterparts. These phenomena affect how nanostructures transport, store, convert,and dissipate energy. This is important for a broad range of energy applications including thermoelectrics, photovoltaics, hydrogen storage, and thermal management of microelectronics. For example, the transport of heat along a nanowire can be many times slower than in a bulk material, which is bad for microelectronic devices but is quite exciting for thermoelectric energy conversion.

Our focus is (1) to develop a deeper understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of heat and energy transport and conversion in nanostructures, and (2) to apply this understanding to technologies ranging from thermoelectric energy conversion to thermal management. Please explore the research page to get some idea of the experimental and theoretical methods we apply.