Transportation is the most important economic sector depending on oil in the US. On the other hand, the transportation sector contributed about 34% of waste heat of the total waste heat produced by all the economic sectors from all primary energy sources. With thermoelectric technology, there is a potential to directly convert some of the waste heat to electricity to provide power. But there are still materials barriers to be addressed in the development of cost effective thermoelectric devices. To overcome these barriers and to gain insights of the material properties, a clear understanding of the material properties at the atomic level is in need. In this talk, I will discuss the applications of thermoelectrics in transportation and the role of my own research of microscopic modeling of phonons and electrons has played in searching for the most efficient thermoelectric materials.
Shang-Fen Ren is a professor of Physics at Illinois State University (ISU) and a Fellow of American Physical Society. She received undergraduate education at Peking University and Ph.D in Physics at Texas A&M University (1986). After Ph.D, she worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for eight years and joined the faculty of ISU in 1994. She has been an adjunct professor at UIUC since and was a visiting faculty at Stanford University in 2001-2002. Shang-Fen Ren’s research area is computational semiconductor physics with interests focusing on semiconductor nanostructures and their energy applications. She has been the Principle Investigator of nine research and education projects supported by the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation, and Caterpillar Inc, etc, and served as referee/panelist of grant proposals and awards of various federal agencies and national organizations.