Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course introduces principles and technologies for converting heat into electricity via solid-state devices. The first part of the course discusses thermoelectric energy conversion and thermoelectric materials, thermionic energy conversion, and photovoltaics. The second part of the course discusses solar thermal technologies. Various solar heat collection systems will be reviewed, followed by an introduction to the principles of solar thermophotovoltaics and solar thermoelectrics. Spectral control techniques, which are critical for solar thermal systems, will be discussed.

Format: Lectures

Homework: Weekly reading and one page reports, 60%

Final project: 40%

Grade: Pass or fail (final confirmation on 2nd week)

Course Calendar



Review of 1st and 2nd law, statistical distribution

Review of heat transfer

Fourier law

Newton’s law of cooling

Planck’s blackbody radiation law, Stefan-Boltzmann law


Thermoelectric effect and thermoelectric devices

Seebeck effect

Peltier effect

Thomson effect

Thermoelectric figure of merit



Energy states in matter

Electron band structure

Phonon spectrum of solids

Density of states

Carrier density


Kinetic formulation of thermoelectricity

Coupled electron heat transport

Electron engineering

Phonon engineering


Current research on thermoelectric materials

Classical thermoelectric materials

Commercial materials: oxides, half-Heusler


Complex materials


Thermionic power conversion

Richardson formula

Thermionic engines: vacuum, solid-state

Schottky barrier and diode

pn junction and diode


Photovoltaic cells

Solid-state thermionics

Solar cell basic principles

Efficiency: maximization, limiting factors

Types of PV cells, single junction and multi-junction


Radiative heat transfer

Blackbody radiation

Motion of the earth and sun

Solar spectra: AM0, AM1, AM1.5, etc.

Definition of radiative properties: emissivity, absorptivity, reflectivity, transmissivity

Maximum efficiency, temperature of solar thermal engines

Wavelength selective surfaces


Solar concentration and solar thermal technology

Solar hot water systems

Imaging and nonimaging optics

Tracking and nontracking systems

Methods for concentration: trough, tower, dish

EM wave calculation of surface properties

Solar thermoelectrics


Guest Lecture: Chris Schuh, “Nanostructured Materials: Stability Against Thermal Coarsening.”


Guest Lecture: Ivan Čelanović, “Photonic Crystals: Shaping the Flow of Thermal Radiation.”

Thermophotovoltaic power generation

Photonic crystal design

Electronic and photonic bandgap properties

PV module design challenges


Applications of thermoelectrics and photovoltaics

Solar thermovoltaics

Selective surfaces

Solar thermophotonics

Solar thermoelectrics