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Frontiers in Energy

ISSN 2095-1701 (Print)
ISSN 2095-1698 (Online)
Formerly Known as Frontiers of Energy and Power Engineering in China

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, Volume 12 Issue 1 Previous Issue   
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Special issue: Nanotechnology in energy
Changying ZHAO, Zhuomin ZHANG, Xing ZHANG
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 1-4.
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Near-field radiative thermoelectric energy converters: a review
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 5-21.
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Radiative thermoelectric energy converters, which include thermophotovoltaic cells, thermoradiative cells, electroluminescent refrigerators, and negative electroluminescent refrigerators, are semiconductor p-n devices that either generate electricity or extract heat from a cold body while exchanging thermal radiation with their surroundings. If this exchange occurs at micro or nanoscale distances, power densities can be greatly enhanced and near-field radiation effects may improve performance. This review covers the fundamentals of near-field thermal radiation, photon entropy, and nonequilibrium effects in semiconductor diodes that underpin device operation. The development and state of the art of these near-field converters are discussed in detail, and remaining challenges and opportunities for progress are identified.

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Leidenfrost drops on micro/nanostructured surfaces
Vishal TALARI, Prakhar BEHAR, Yi LU, Evan HARYADI, Dong LIU
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 22-42.
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In the Leidenfrost state, the liquid drop is levitated above a hot solid surface by a vapor layer generated via evaporation from the drop. The vapor layer thermally insulates the drop from the heating surface, causing deteriorated heat transfer in a myriad of important engineering applications. Thus, it is highly desirable to suppress the Leidenfrost effect and elevate the Leidenfrost temperature. This paper presents a comprehensive review of recent literature concerning the Leidenfrost drops on micro/nanostructured surfaces with an emphasis on the enhancement of the Leidenfrost temperature. The basic physical processes of the Leidenfrost effect and the key characteristics of the Leidenfrost drops were first introduced. Then, the major findings of the influence of various micro/nanoscale surface structures on the Leidenfrost temperature were presented in detail, and the underlying enhancement mechanism for each specific surface topology was also discussed. It was concluded that multiscale hierarchical surfaces hold the best promise to significantly boost the Leidenfrost temperature by combining the advantages of both micro- and nanoscale structures.

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Review: Tip-based vibrational spectroscopy for nanoscale analysis of emerging energy materials
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 43-71.
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Vibrational spectroscopy is one of the key instrumentations that provide non-invasive investigation of structural and chemical composition for both organic and inorganic materials. However, diffraction of light fundamentally limits the spatial resolution of far-field vibrational spectroscopy to roughly half the wavelength. In this article, we thoroughly review the integration of atomic force microscopy (AFM) with vibrational spectroscopy to enable the nanoscale characterization of emerging energy materials, which has not been possible with far-field optical techniques. The discussed methods utilize the AFM tip as a nanoscopic tool to extract spatially resolved electronic or molecular vibrational resonance spectra of a sample illuminated by a visible or infrared (IR) light source. The absorption of light by electrons or individual functional groups within molecules leads to changes in the sample’s thermal response, optical scattering, and atomic force interactions, all of which can be readily probed by an AFM tip. For example, photothermal induced resonance (PTIR) spectroscopy methods measure a sample’s local thermal expansion or temperature rise. Therefore, they use the AFM tip as a thermal detector to directly relate absorbed IR light to the thermal response of a sample. Optical scattering methods based on scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) correlate the spectrum of scattered near-field light with molecular vibrational modes. More recently, photo-induced force microscopy (PiFM) has been developed to measure the change of the optical force gradient due to the light absorption by molecular vibrational resonances using AFM’s superb sensitivity in detecting tip-sample force interactions. Such recent efforts successfully breech the diffraction limit of light to provide nanoscale spatial resolution of vibrational spectroscopy, which will become a critical technique for characterizing novel energy materials.

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Thermal transport in organic/inorganic composites
Bin LIU, Lan DONG, Qing XI, Xiangfan XU, Jun ZHOU, Baowen LI
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 72-86.
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Composite materials, which consist of organic and inorganic components, are widely used in various fields because of their excellent mechanical properties, resistance to corrosion, low-cost fabrication, etc. Thermal properties of organic/inorganic composites play a crucial role in some applications such as thermal interface materials for micro-electronic packaging, nano-porous materials for sensor development, thermal insulators for aerospace, and high-performance thermoelectric materials for power generation and refrigeration. In the past few years, many studies have been conducted to reveal the physical mechanism of thermal transport in organic/inorganic composite materials in order to stimulate their practical applications. In this paper, the theoretical and experimental progresses in this field are reviewed. Besides, main factors affecting the thermal conductivity of organic/inorganic composites are discussed, including the intrinsic properties of organic matrix and inorganic fillers, topological structure of composites, loading volume fraction, and the interfacial thermal resistance between fillers and organic matrix.

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Thermal transport properties of monolayer phosphorene: a mini-review of theoretical studies
Guangzhao QIN, Ming HU
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 87-96.
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Phosphorene, a two-dimensional (2D) elemental semiconductor with a high carrier mobility and intrinsic direct band gap, possesses fascinating chemical and physical properties distinctively different from other 2D materials. Its rapidly growing applications in nano-/opto-electronics and thermoelectrics call for fundamental understanding of the thermal transport properties. Considering the fact that there have been so many studies on the thermal transport in phosphorene, it is on emerging demand to have a review on the progress of previous studies and give an outlook on future work. In this mini-review, the unique thermal transport properties of phosphorene induced by the hinge-like structure are examined. There exists a huge deviation in the reported thermal conductivity of phosphorene in literature. Besides, the mechanism underlying the deviation is discussed by reviewing the effect of different functionals and cutoff distance in calculating the thermal transport properties of phosphorene. It is found that the van der Waals (vdW) interactions play a key role in the formation of resonant bonding, which leads to long-ranged interactions. Taking into account of the vdW interactions and including the long-ranged interactions caused by the resonant bonding with large cutoff distance are important for getting the accurate and converged thermal conductivity of phosphorene. Moreover, a fundamental insight into the thermal transport is provided based on the review of resonant bonding in phosphorene. This mini-review summarizes the progress of the thermal transport in phosphorene and gives an outlook on future horizons, which would benefit the design of phosphorene based nano-electronics.

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Nanostructural thermoelectric materials and their performance
Kai-Xuan CHEN, Min-Shan LI, Dong-Chuan MO, Shu-Shen LYU
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 97-108.
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In this review, an attempt was made to introduce the traditional concepts and materials in thermoelectric application and the recent development in searching high-performance thermoelectric materials. Due to the use of nanostructural engineering, thermoelectric materials with a high figure of merit are designed, leading to their blooming application in the energy field. One dimensional nanotubes and nanoribbons, two-dimensional planner structures, nanocomposites, and heterostructures were summarized. In addition, the state-of-the-art theoretical calculation in the prediction of thermoelectric materials was also reviewed, including the molecular dynamics (MD), Boltzmann transport equation, and non-equilibrium Green’s function. The combination of experimental fabrication and first-principles prediction significantly promotes the discovery of new promising candidates in the thermoelectric field.

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System-level Pareto frontiers for on-chip thermoelectric coolers
Sevket U. YURUKER, Michael C. FISH, Zhi YANG, Nicholas BALDASARO, Philip BARLETTA, Avram BAR-COHEN, Bao YANG
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 109-120.
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The continuous rise in heat dissipation of integrated circuits necessitates advanced thermal solutions to ensure system reliability and efficiency. Thermoelectric coolers are among the most promising techniques for dealing with localized on-chip hot spots. This study focuses on establishing a holistic optimization methodology for such thermoelectric coolers, in which a thermoelectric element’s thickness and the electrical current are optimized to minimize source temperature with respect to ambient, when the thermal and electrical parasitic effects are considered. It is found that when element thickness and electrical current are optimized for a given system architecture, a “heat flux vs. temperature difference” Pareto frontier curve is obtained, indicating that there is an optimum thickness and a corresponding optimum current that maximize the achievable temperature reduction while removing a particular heat flux. This methodology also provides the possible system level ΔT’s that can be achieved for a range of heat fluxes, defining the upper limits of thermoelectric cooling for that architecture. In this study, use was made of an extensive analytical model, which was verified using commercially available finite element analysis software. Through the optimization process, 3 pairs of master curves were generated, which were then used to compose the Pareto frontier for any given system architecture. Finally, a case study was performed to provide an in-depth demonstration of the optimization procedure for an example application.

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Experimental research on thermal transport properties of crystallized palladium-based alloys
Siyuan CHENG, Xuguo SHI, Weigang MA, Xing ZHANG, Guanglai LIU, Mingxiang PAN, Weihua WANG
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 121-126.
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Palladium-based alloy is a kind of material with a high glass forming ability and can be easily formed into an amorphous state. After an annealing process, it can also be maintained at a crystallized state. To study the thermal and electrical transport properties of crystallized palladium-based alloys, the steady-state T-type method, standard four-probe method, and AC heating-DC detecting T-type method were used to measure the thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity, and Seebeck coefficient of crystallized Pd40Ni10Cu30P20 and Pd43Ni10Cu27P20 alloys respectively. The results show that compared to amorphous samples, the thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity of crystallized palladium-based alloys are significantly higher, while the Seebeck coefficient is lower. The ratio of crystallized and amorphous thermal conductivity is higher for Pd43Ni10Cu27P20 alloy fiber which has a higher glass forming ability, while the ratio of electronic thermal conductivity almost remains constant for both alloy fibers. The results also show that the slope of electrical resistivity to temperature is a function of elemental composition for crystallized quaternary palladium-based alloy fibers. The sensitivity of thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity to the composition is high, while the correlation between Seebeck coefficient and composition is relatively weak.

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Largely reduced cross-plane thermal conductivity of nanoporous In0.1Ga0.9N thin films directly grown by metal organic chemical vapor deposition
Dongchao XU, Quan WANG, Xuewang WU, Jie ZHU, Hongbo ZHAO, Bo XIAO, Xiaojia WANG, Xiaoliang WANG, Qing HAO
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 127-136.
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In recent year, nanoporous Si thin films have been widely studied for their potential applications in thermoelectrics, in which high thermoelectric performance can be obtained by combining both the dramatically reduced lattice thermal conductivity and bulk-like electrical properties. Along this line, a high thermoelectric figure of merit (ZT) is also anticipated for other nanoporous thin films, whose bulk counterparts possess superior electrical properties but also high lattice thermal conductivities. Numerous thermoelectric studies have been carried out on Si-based nanoporous thin films, whereas cost-effective nitrides and oxides are not systematically studied for similar thermoelectric benefits. In this work, the cross-plane thermal conductivities of nanoporous In0.1Ga0.9N thin films with varied porous patterns were measured with the time-domain thermoreflectance technique. These alloys are suggested to have better electrical properties than conventional SixGe1−x alloys; however, a high ZT is hindered by their intrinsically high lattice thermal conductivity, which can be addressed by introducing nanopores to scatter phonons. In contrast to previous studies using dry-etched nanopores with amorphous pore edges, the measured nanoporous thin films of this work are directly grown on a patterned sapphire substrate to minimize the structural damage by dry etching. This removes the uncertainty in the phonon transport analysis due to amorphous pore edges. Based on the measurement results, remarkable phonon size effects can be found for a thin film with periodic 300-nm-diameter pores of different patterns. This indicates that a significant amount of heat inside these alloys is still carried by phonons with ~300 nm or longer mean free paths. Our studies provide important guidance for ZT enhancement in alloys of nitrides and similar oxides.

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Impacts of cone-structured interface and aperiodicity on nanoscale thermal transport in Si/Ge superlattices
Pengfei JI, Yiming RONG, Yuwen ZHANG, Yong TANG
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 137-142.
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Si/Ge superlattices are promising thermoelectric materials to convert thermal energy into electric power. The nanoscale thermal transport in Si/Ge superlattices is investigated via molecular dynamics (MD) simulation in this short communication. The impact of Si and Ge interface on the cross-plane thermal conductivity reduction in the Si/Ge superlattices is studied by designing cone-structured interface and aperiodicity between the Si and Ge layers. The temperature difference between the left and right sides of the Si/Ge superlattices is set up for nonequilibrium MD simulation. The spatial distribution of temperature is recorded to examine whether the steady-state has been reached. As a crucial factor to quantify thermal transport, the temporal evolution of heat flux flowing through Si/Ge superlattices is calculated. Compared with the even interface, the cone-structured interface contributes remarkable resistance to the thermal transport, whereas the aperiodic arrangement of Si and Ge layers with unequal thicknesses has a marginal influence on the reduction of effective thermal conductivity. The interface with divergent cone-structure shows the most excellent performance of all the simulated cases, which brings a 33% reduction of the average thermal conductivity to the other Si/Ge superlattices with even, convergent cone-structured interfaces and aperiodic arrangements. The design of divergent cone-structured interface sheds promising light on enhancing the thermoelectric efficiency of Si/Ge based materials.

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Thermal reffusivity: uncovering phonon behavior, structural defects, and domain size
Yangsu XIE, Bowen ZHU, Jing LIU, Zaoli XU, Xinwei WANG
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 143-157.
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To understand the relation between different nanostructures and thermal properties, a simple yet effective model is in demand for characterizing the underlying phonons and electrons scattering mechanisms. Herein, we make a systematic review on the newly developed thermal reffusivity theory. Like electrical resistivity which has been historically used as a theory for analyzing structural domain size and defect levels of metals, the thermal reffusivity can also uncover phonon behavior, structure defects and domain size of materials. We highlight that this new theory can be used for not only metals, but also nonmetals, even for amorphous materials. From the thermal reffusivity against temperature curves, the Debye temperature of the material and the ideal thermal diffusivity of single perfect crystal can be evaluated. From the residual thermal reffusivity at the 0 K limit, the structural thermal domain (STD) size of crystalline and amorphous materials can be obtained. The difference of white hair and normal black hair from heat conduction perspective is reported for the first time. Loss of melanin results in a worse thermal protection and a larger STD size in the white hair. By reviewing the different variation of thermal reffusivity against decreasing temperature profiles, we conclude that they reflected the structural connection in the materials. Ultimately, the future application of thermal reffusivity theory in studying 2D materials and amorphous materials is discussed.

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Design and analysis of Salisbury screens and Jaumann absorbers for solar radiation absorption
Xing FANG, C. Y. ZHAO, Hua BAO
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 158-168.
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Two types of resonance absorbers, i.e., Salisbury screens and Jaumann absorbers are systematically investigated in solar radiation absorption. Salisbury screen is a metal-dielectric-metal structure which overcomes the drawback of bulky thickness for solar spectrum. Such structures have a good spectral selective absorption property, which is also insensitive to incident angles and polarizations. To further broaden absorption bandwidth, more metal and dielectric films are taken in the structure to form Jaumann absorbers. To design optimized structural parameters, the admittance matching equations have been derived in this paper to give good initial structures, which are valuable for the following optimization. Moreover, the analysis of admittance loci has been conducted to directly show the effect of each layer on the spectral absorptivity, and then the effect of thin films is well understood. Since the fabrication of these layered absorbers is much easier than that of other nanostructured absorbers, Salisbury screen and Jaumann absorbers have a great potential in large-area applications.

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Effect of light scattering on the performance of a direct absorption solar collector
Kwang Hyun WON, Bong Jae LEE
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 169-177.
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Recently, a solar thermal collector often employs nanoparticle suspension to absorb the solar radiation directly by a working fluid as well as to enhance its thermal performance. The collector efficiency of a direct absorption solar collector (DASC) is very sensitive to optical properties of the working fluid, such as absorption and scattering coefficients. Most of the existing studies have neglected particle scattering by assuming that the size of nanoparticle suspension is much smaller than the wavelength of solar radiation (i.e., Rayleigh scattering is applicable). If the nanoparticle suspension is made of metal, however, the scattering cross-section of metallic nanoparticles could be comparable to their absorption cross-section depending on the particle size, especially when the localized surface plasmon (LSP) is excited. Therefore, for the DASC utilizing a plasmonic nanofluid supporting the LSP, light scattering from metallic particle suspension must be taken into account in the thermal analysis. The present study investigates the scattering effect on the thermal performance of the DASC employing plasmonic nanofluid as a working fluid. In the analysis, the Monte Carlo method is employed to numerically solve the radiative transfer equation considering the volume scattering inside the nanofluid. It is found that the light scattering can improve the collector performance if the scattering coefficient of nanofluid is carefully engineered depending on its value of the absorption coefficient.

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Realization of energy-saving glass using photonic crystals
Yen-Hsiang CHEN, Li-Hung LIAO, Yu-Bin CHEN
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 178-184.
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This work successfully developed an energy-saving glass with wavelength selectivity. The glass is composed of a SiO2 substrate and two layers of three-dimensional photonic crystals. Each crystal is composed of identical and transparent polystyrene spheres after their self-assembling. The glass then possesses dual photonic band gaps in the near-infrared region to suppress penetration of thermal radiation. Experimental results show that the energy-saving glass decreases temperature increment in a mini-house. Moreover, the temperature after thermal equilibrium is lower than that inside a counterpart using ordinary glass.

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Plasmonic light trapping for enhanced light absorption in film-coupled ultrathin metamaterial thermophotovoltaic cells
Qing NI, Hassan ALSHEHRI, Yue YANG, Hong YE, Liping WANG
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (1): 185-194.
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Ultrathin cells have gained increasing attention due to their potential for reduced weight, reduced cost and increased flexibility. However, the light absorption in ultrathin cells is usually very weak compared to the corresponding bulk cells. To achieve enhanced photon absorption in ultrathin thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cells, this work proposed a film-coupled metamaterial structure made of nanometer-thick gallium antimonide (GaSb) layer sandwiched by a top one-dimensional (1D) metallic grating and a bottom metal film. The spectral normal absorptance of the proposed structure was calculated using the rigorous coupled-wave algorithm (RCWA) and the absorption enhancement was elucidated to be attributed to the excitations of magnetic polariton (MP), surface plasmon polariton (SPP), and Fabry-Perot (FP) resonance. The mechanisms of MP, SPP, and FP were further confirmed by an inductor-capacitor circuit model, dispersion relation, and phase shift, respectively. Effects of grating period, width, spacer thickness, as well as incidence angle were discussed. Moreover, short-circuit current density, open-circuit voltage, output electric power, and conversion efficiency were evaluated for the ultrathin GaSb TPV cell with a film-coupled metamaterial structure. This work will facilitate the development of next-generation low-cost ultrathin infrared TPV cells.

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16 articles