Energy Applications

Control of thermal radiation at high temperatures is vital for waste heat recovery and for high-efficiency thermophotovoltaic (TPV) conversion. Previously, structural resonances utilizing gratings, thin film resonances, metasurfaces and photonic crystals were used to spectrally control thermal emission, often requiring lithographic structuring of the surface and causing significant angle dependence. In contrast, here, we demonstrate a refractory W-HfO2 metamaterial, which controls thermal emission through an engineered dielectric response function. The epsilon-near-zero frequency of a metamaterial and the connected optical topological transition (OTT) are adjusted to selectively enhance and suppress the thermal emission in the near-infrared spectrum, crucial for improved TPV efficiency. The near-omnidirectional and spectrally selective emitter is obtained as the emission changes due to material properties and not due to resonances or interference effects, marking a paradigm shift in thermal engineering approaches. We experimentally demonstrate the OTT in a thermally stable metamaterial at high temperatures of 1,000C.

Ideal near-field thermophotovoltaic cells

We ask the question, what are the ideal characteristics of a near-field thermophotovoltaic cell? Our search leads us to a reformulation of near-field radiative heat transfer in terms of the joint density of electronic states of the emitter-absorber pair in the thermophotovoltaic system. This form reveals that semiconducting materials with narrowband absorption spectra are critical to the energy-conversion efficiency. This essential feature is unavailable in conventional bulk semiconductor cells but can be obtained using low-dimensional materials. Our results show that the presence of matched van Hove singularities resulting from quantum confinement in the emitter and absorber of a thermophotovoltaic cell boosts both the magnitude and spectral selectivity of radiative heat transfer, dramatically improving energy-conversion efficiency. We provide a model near-field thermophotovoltaic system design making use of this idea by employing the van Hove singularities present in carbon nanotubes. Shockley-Queisser analysis shows that the predicted heat transfer characteristics of this model device are fundamentally better than existing thermophotovoltaic designs. Our work paves the way for the use of quantum dots, quantum wells, two-dimensional semiconductors, semiconductor nanowires, and carbon nanotubes as future materials for thermophotovoltaic cells.


Near Field Spin Photonics

    Our work led to a fundamental understanding of universal spin-momentum locking of light and near-field properties of light's polarization.

Spin-Momentum Locked Forces

    We introduced a universal right handed electromagnetic triplet consisting of electromagnetic momentum, decay and spin.

Quantum Gyro-Electric Phase of Matter

    We have predicted the existence of a new topological phase of matter exhibiting photon spin-1 quantization.