Thermal storage and transport in colloidal nanocrystal-based materials
The rapid progress of solution-phase synthesis has led colloidal nanocrystals one of the most versatile nanoscale materials, provided opportunities to tailor material's properties, and boosted related technological innovations. Colloidal nanocrystal-based materials have been demonstrated success in a variety of applications, such as LEDs, electronics, solar cells and thermoelectrics. In each of these applications, the thermal transport property plays a big role. An undesirable temperature rise due to inefficient heat dissipation could lead to deleterious effects on devices' performance and lifetime. Hence, the first project is focused on investigating the thermal transport in colloidal nanocrystal solids. This study answers the question that how the molecular structure of nanocrystals affect the thermal transport, and provides insights for future device designs. In particular, PbS nanocrystals is used as a monitoring system, and the core diameter, ligand length and ligand binding group are systematically varied to study the corresponding effect on thermal transport.
Next, a fundamental study is presented on the phase stability and solid-liquid transformation of metallic (In, Sn and Bi) colloidal nanocrystals. Although the phase change of nanoparticles has been a long-standing research topic, the melting behavior of colloidal nanocrytstals is largely unexplored. In addition, this study is of practical importance to nanocrystal-based applications that operate at elevated temperatures. Embedding colloidal nanocrystals into thermally-stable polymer matrices allows preserving nanocrystal size throughout melt-freeze cycles, and therefore enabling observation of stable melting features. Size-dependent melting temperature, melting enthalpy and melting entropy have all been measured and discussed.
In the next two chapters, focus has been switched to developing colloidal nanocrystal-based phase change composites for thermal energy storage applications. In Chapter 4, a polymer matrix phase change nanocomposite has been created. In this composite, the melting temperature and energy density could be independently controlled by tuning nanocrystal diameter and volume fractions. In Chapter 5, a solution-phase synthesis on metal matrix-metal nanocrytal composite is presented. This approach enables excellent morphological control over nanocrystals and demonstrated a phase change composite with a thermal conductivity 2 - 3 orders of magnitude greater than typical phase change materials, such as organics and molten salts.