Seminar: Alireza Nojeh

Alireza Nojeh

“Thermionic Energy Conversion: Simple, Elegant, and Elusive”
Thursday, Jan. 26 at 1:00pm
LAR 234


Thermionic energy converters, conceptually simple static heat engines, are excellent candidates for harvesting the vast amounts of high-temperature heat available in the world. They are suitable for both large-scale and small-scale/distributed electricity generation, and basic theory suggests that they can be highly efficient. However, a century after their inception, these converters have not yet become a practical reality, nor achieved their promised high performance even in the laboratory. This may seem mysterious but, on closer look, one observes that the theory of these devices is much more extensive than it might appear. A whole host of physical phenomena are intricately inter-twined in these converters, ranging from thermal conduction, solid-state transport, and thermoelectric effects to the thermal emission of electrons and far-field and near-field thermal radiation. Quantitative analysis of these devices requires the simultaneous inclusion of all that in order to obtain realistic estimates of converter performance and enable the design and engineering of improved devices. We will discuss a comprehensive multiphysics approach to modeling thermionic converters and some of its unexpected results in the context of example devices. We will also review the effort needed on the experimental front to advance these converters, in particular on spectroscopic approaches to studying the thermal emission of electrons and photons.


Dr. Alireza Nojeh received a BS and an MS from Sharif University of Technology, a DEA from the University of Paris XI-Orsay, and a PhD from Stanford University. Since 2006, he has been on the faculty of the University of British Columbia, where he is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute. He is also a Professional Engineer in British Columbia. His research interests are mainly in the interactions of electrons and photons with nanostructures, electron emission phenomena, vacuum nanoelectronics, and energy conversion; he has also worked in nanomaterial synthesis, nanofabrication, solid-state electronics, and optoelectronics. In 2016, he chaired the 29th International Vacuum Nanoelectronics Conference.