Nanoscience and Advanced Materials

Title: Superlattice structures for sustainable thermal energy harvesting
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Martirosyan

Thermoelectric (TE) materials that generate electricity from waste heat sources are an ideal solution to the search for sustainable energy. We propose to increase the dimensionless figure of merit (ZT) value of TE materials by assembling low-dimensional geometries combining single wall carbon nanotubes and graphene with layered perovskites to form superlattice periodical structures. The superlattice structures will assist modifications of electronic band structures and band convergence to enhance Seebeck coefficients, to improve the thermal phonon scattering and to increase electron mobility that expands TE efficiency. We plan to fabricate several nanostructured complexes by using an exothermic patterning synthesis method that we recently developed. The proposed research includes the following basic tasks: (i) Identifying the stable superlattice structures for TE materials with high figures of merit ZT; (ii) Producing p-type and n-type of TE matrix nanocomposites; (iii) All-scale intrinsic hierarchical architecturing for layered thermoelectric assemblies to reduce the lattice thermal conductivity; (iv) Self-assembling fabrication and testing of TE devices suitable for small-scale power systems for energy harvesting. The students will be exposed to the advanced nanostructured technology development.

Title: High Density Nanoenergetic Micropropulsion System
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Martirosyan

The goal of this task is to advance the multi-physics knowledge and nanotechnology bases of micropropulsion systems by devising and synthesizing novel high-energy density nanoenergetic materials which will be integrated with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). These transformative developments will significantly contribute to micro- and nano- satellite missions as well as national security and U.S. technology dominance. We will develop nanoenergetic composites that will surpass the existing energetic materials in terms of high energy density, energy release, shock waves, gas pressure discharge, and stability. These nanoenergetic materials and MEMS will significantly advance overall performance of micropropulsion systems to increase the capabilities and functionality of various novel advanced technologies for innovative satellite platforms. A modular MEMS architecture will ensure system-level functionality (controllability, data acquisition, sensing, processing, diagnostics and other tasks), thereby enabling overall performance and systems capabilities. Students working in this project will examine advanced sensing and control principles in design and fabrication of micropropulsion systems with nanoenergetic materials. The proposed research will consist of the following outcomes: (i) Development of a knowledge base in quantum multi-physics science of energy conversion and transport in atomic-structured nanoenergetic systems; (ii) Determination of thermal energy conversion, shock wave velocity propagation, gas transport evolution, sensitivity and stability; (iii) Development of atomically predicted capabilities of crystalline oxides nanoparticles and their controlled self-assembly; (iv) Development of MEMS solutions for micro propulsion platforms by 3D printing; and (v) Design, fabrication and demonstration a proof-of-concept micromachined microthruster test-bed in order to increase the technology readiness level and enable commercialization capabilities.