Center for Phononics and Thermal Energy Science
Approximately 90% of the world’s power is generated by heat engines that use fossil fuel combustion as a heat source and typically operate at 30–40% efficiency. This means that roughly 15 terawatts of heat is lost to the environment. Worldwide computer and electronic devices used tremendous electricity, for example, in 2005, computers in the world used up 123 G kWh. For every kilowatt-hour of energy consumed by a computer in a data centre, another kWh is needed for cooling. The power wasted in desktop PCs sold in one year is roughly equal to that produced by seventeen 500MW power plants! Moreover, a large amount of solar energy is in the form of thermal energy and cannot be converted to electricity by the current solar cell.
Thermoelectric modules can potentially convert part of the wasted heat directly into a high grade form of energy such as electricity. However, the efficiency of current thermoelectric materials is rather low. The key to this problem is to enhance the electric conduction and suppressing phonon conduction, which is the main course of Phononics.
Center for Phononics and Thermal Energy Scienc (CPTES) will conduct theoretical, computational, and experimental studies of the fundamental laws of phonons/heat and their interaction with other heat carriers like electrons, photos etc. It will explore the physical principles and technology for manipulating and controlling phonons/heat and electrons for potential applications in energy efficiency, conversion of heat into electricity, and information processing.
Lead the world in devising functional energy materials which will revolutionalise many aspects of day-to-day living, and help to alleviate the global energy crisis.
3. The research topics
The research topics at the Center are summarized in the following graph.
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