Modelling thermoelectric generators (Peltier cells) embedded in cement units

Modelling thermoelectric generators (Peltier cells) embedded in cement units

Full-time postgraduate research studentship

Starting date: 1st November 2018

Duration: three years


A fully funded (fees and maintenance) studentship sponsored by the Department of Economy (DfE) of Northern Ireland is available for EU residents, only. Further details on the eligibility criteria (included nationality, residency, and academic qualification) can be found here: http://go.qub.ac.uk/dfeterms

Potential candidates are strongly recommended to verify their eligibility before applying.

Eligible candidates must demonstrate a first or upper second class honours degree from a university in the UK or an equivalent academic qualification, preferably in Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, or Mathematics, before 1st November 2018.

Working knowledge of finite element modelling and python scripting is also desirable.

The successful candidate will be travelling and have placement periods at the Civil Engineering department at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the Lyles School of Civil Engineering, Purdue University (PU), and the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, Washington University in St. Louis (WUSL).


The use of fossil fuels to cool buildings has a significant cost both in monetary terms and in the release of greenhouse gases. Overall, in Northern Ireland in 2015, 582 GWh of energy were generated for heating. This value has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years. This is equivalent to 440 million tonnes of oil every year, which represents 35% of the total primary energy consumption in Northern Ireland, with the emission of almost 140 million tonnes of CO2. Globally, buildings account for 32% of global energy use and almost 10% of energy-related CO2 emissions. As almost 60% of energy consumption worldwide is wasted as heat, there is a growing need for buildings to maximise their potential energy harvesting, distribution, storage and efficient usage. Reducing building cooling services has the greatest long-term potential for reducing CO 2 emissions, which are currently 87W/m2 and over 1,500W/m2 for data centres, which are three times that required for heating. Space ventilation systems for an office is approximately €55/m2 , which represents 12% of the entire M&E costs.

Improving thermal insulation of buildings is currently one of the crucial tasks of civil engineering. The aim is to reduce the cost of heating and, more importantly, the carbon footprint of houses. Nevertheless, in cold climates, heat losses through walls are unavoidable. This research will make use of these unavoidable loses to generate free electric power, using these parasitic heat flows. This is possible due to the existence of a class of materials called thermoelectrics, which convert heat into electricity. This paves the way to a new, unexpected source of renewable energy that is hidden very close to us. The modest power generated by this process can be stored in batteries and released on demand and used in several ways that improve living comfort. Firstly, we have a source of energy at our disposal that can be used to support low-power devices like sensors, LED lights, and some electro-domestic appliances. The batteries can be placed close to such appliances, embedded in the walls, thus avoiding engineering problems and energy losses arising from electrical wiring. Secondly, the energy so generated can be used to regulate the temperature in the room either by standard heaters or by using the thermoelectric brick in reverse mode.

The successful candidate will model thermoelectric generators (Peltier cells) embedded in cement units. The modelling will be done in close collaboration with the experimental partners at DIT and PU. A finite element model of the the macroscopic heat and electric transport properties will be formulated and informed by atomistic calculations, also performed at QUB. The model is expected to help design thermoelectric cement brick prototype at DIT and their full scale testing at PU and WUSTL.


Applications should be made through the QUB application portal at the following link:


Please, ensure that your application is directed to the School of Mathematics and Physics.

Deadline for applications: 15th September 2018

Informal inquiries may be addressed to: l.stella@qub.ac.uk and p.chudzinski@qub.ac.uk