Thermoelectric properties of quantum dots and other low-dimensional systems

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Title: Thermoelectric properties of quantum dots and other low-dimensional systems
Author: Nakpathomkun, Natthapon, 1973-
Abstract: Quantum dots are systems in which all three spatial sizes are comparable to the Fermi wavelength. The strong confinement leads to a discrete energy spectrum. A goal of thermoelectric research is to find a system with a high thermoelectric figure of merit, which is related to the efficiency of solid-state heat engines. The delta-like density of states of quantum dots has been predicted to boost this figure of merit. This dissertation addresses some thermoelectric properties relevant to the thermal-to-electric energy conversion using InAs/InP quantum dots embedded in nanowires. In thermoelectric experiments, a temperature difference must be established and its value needs to be determined. A novel technique for measuring electron temperature across the dot is presented. A strong nonlinearity of the thermocurrent as a function of temperature difference is observed at a small ratio of temperature gradient and cryostat temperature. At large heating currents, a sign reversal is observed. Numerical calculations explore the contribution of the energy dependence of the transmission function to this effect. Depending on the relative contributions from sequential tunneling and co-tunneling, thermovoltages of quantum dots generally have one of two different lineshapes: a sawtooth shape or a shape similar to the derivative of the conductance peak. Here a simple picture is presented that shows that thermovoltage lineshape is accurately predicted from the energy level spacing inside the dot and the width of the transmission function. An important figure of merit of all heat engines is the efficiency at maximum power. Here the thermoelectric efficiency at maximum power of quantum dots is numerically compared to that of two other low-dimensional systems: an ideal one-dimensional conductor (1D) and a thermionic power generator (TI). The numerical calculations show that either 1D or TI systems can produce the highest maximum power depending on the operating temperature, the effective mass of the electron, and the effective area of the TI system. In spite of this, 1D systems yield the highest efficiency at maximum power.
Description: xii, 106 p. : ill. (some col.)
Date: 2010-12

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