2013 Winner: Nanomaterials for energy

Project Information
Nanomaterials for energy
Last September, I became a member of the Nanostructured Energy Conversion Technology And Research (NECTAR) Group. This group, led by Dr. Nobuhiko P. Kobayashi, utilizes the facilities available both at 2300 Delaware (MOCVD Reactor) and at the Advanced Studies Laboratories at NASA Ames Research Center (SEM, TEM, XRD) to design, grow and characterize new materials for energy conversion. The two main projects I work on are thermoelectric nanowires and a sun to fiber converter.

Nanowires are quantum materials that are able to convert heat (from the sun, a power plant, the human body) into electricity efficiently. At the moment, we are trying to grow nanowires in an inexpensive way in common, flexible materials such as copper or steel foil.

Solar thermal power generation also has a high potential. Light flux from the sun with power density of 800 to 1000Wm-2 on the earth's surface can be concentrated within the limit imposed by the second law of thermodynamics. When concentrated, light flux from the sun can provide a large amount of energy with significant volume energy density. Such intense light flux is very useful in a wide range of applications including to efficient production of electricity by photovoltaic cells or solar thermal heat engines and direct usage as a powerful light source for a large-scale lighting, optical-pumping of laser mediums, and optical-processing in various industrial needs. In ways of handling light flux, notable progress has been made in the technology of optical fiber waveguides for transmission of a large amount of "information" with light, offering many benefits over electrons carrying information via metallic conductors. With the advancement of optical fiber waveguides that can carry upward of 10kW per fiber, it is logical to implement them for transmission of a large amount of "energy" in the form of light from intense light sources such as concentrated sun light flux. The challenge, however, is to design and fabricate a low-loss and inexpensive apparatus that directs concentrated sun light flux from a large-scale optics (i.e., a large solar concentrator mirror) to a small-scale optics (i.e., an optical fiber waveguide). This project aims at the design and fabrication of a revolutionary optical coupler for collection, transmission, and further concentration of intense solar light flux generated by various types of first-stage solar concentrators. This disruptive optical coupler could change entire design landscape of solar themal power generation systems and reduce installation and operation cost significantly
In this project, I design, synthesize and characterize a series of metal oxide thin films for an innovative optical couplers called planer optical waveguide coupler transformer (POWCT)
  • Juan Jose Diaz Leon (Ten)