When 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Dec 19, 2016
Where 1670 Beyster Building
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First-Principles Calculations of Electronic, Optical, and Transport Properties of Materials for Energy Applications


Guangsha Shi
Thesis Defense

Solar electricity is a reliable and environmentally friendly method of sustainable energy production and a realistic alternative to conventional fossil fuels. Moreover, thermoelectric energy conversion is a promising technology for solid-state refrigeration and efficient waste-heat recovery. Predicting and optimizing new photovoltaic and thermoelectric materials composed of Earth-abundant elements that exceed the current state of the art, and understanding how nanoscale structuring and ordering improves their energy conversion efficiency pose a challenge for materials scientists. I approach this challenge by developing and applying predictive high- performance computing methods to guide research and development of new materials for energy-conversion applications. I present my calculated results on the extraordinary properties of nanostructured semiconductor materials, including strong visible-light absorbance in nanoporous silicon and few-layer SnSe and GeSe. These findings highlight the capability of nanoscale structuring and ordering to improve the performance of Earth- abundant materials compared to their bulk counterparts for solar-cell applications. I also successfully identified the dominant mechanisms contributing to free-carrier absorption in n-type silicon. My findings help evaluate the impact of the energy loss from this absorption mechanism in doped silicon and are thus important for the design of silicon solar cells. In addition, I calculated the thermoelectric transport properties of p-type SnSe, a bulk material with a record thermoelectric figure of merit. I predicted the optimal temperatures and free-carrier concentrations for thermoelectric energy conversion, as well the theoretical upper limit of the figure of merit. I also determined the electronic structures of Mg2Si, Mg2Ge, and Mg2Sn, a family of Earth-abundant thermoelectric compounds. I uncovered the importance of quasiparticle corrections and the proper treatment of pseudopotentials in the determination of the band gaps and the thermoelectric transport properties at high temperatures. The methods and codes I developed in my research form a general predictive toolbox for the design and optimization of the functional properties of materials for energy applications.

 

DISSERTATION COMMITTEE:

Chair:

Asst. Prof. Emmanouil Kioupakis, MSE

 

 Members:

Assoc. Prof. Ferdinand Poudeu, MSE

Asst. Prof. Liang Qi, MSE

  

Cognate:

Professor Ctirad Uher, Physics