Exploring thermoelectric phenomena in cement

Supervisors: Lorenzo Stella, Piotr Chudzinski, Jorge Kohanoff


Almost 60% of energy consumption worldwide is wasted as heat and it is natural to ask: can any of this energy be recovered? Or to be more precise, can the walls that are surrounding us became a new source of “green electricity”? We know that thermoelectric phenomena allows one to turn heat into electricity, the question that we ask in this project is whether the most popular construction material – cement, can become a host for thermoelectric phenomena. There are several sub-problems that the successful candidate is going to face. Firstly, we need to identify areas (in an inhomogeneous material) where thermal gradients are particularly large. Secondly, the student will need to devise how to incorporate thermoelectric cells in the walls. These can be either by using of-the-shelf commercial Peltier units (with an open issue how to collect electric power from these), or through microscopic mechanisms occurring directly in the cement.

The student is expected to have some experience (or at least a genuine interest) in preferably more than one of the following subjects: solid state physics (including thermoelectric phenomena), analytic solutions of heat flow equations, finite difference methods for partial differential equations, finite elements modeling, Density Functional Theory, Boltzmann transport equation.

A great advantage of the project is that it will be developed in a close collaboration with experimental and engineering teams from Dublin (Ireland) and Purdue (USA). This offers a unique opportunity for a person interested in an applied physics whereby an entire project from a theoretical idea up to a working prototype device will be a part of the PhD experience.


The studentship covers fees and maintenance and is 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 1st or 2.1 class honours degree from a University in the UK or an equivalent academic qualification in Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, or Mathematics, before 1st December 2018.

The successful candidate will be travelling (and may have placement periods) at the Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland) and short-term visits/meetings at Purdue University and Washington University in St. Louis (USA).