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School of Physics and Astronomy

Molecular Network Heat Engines

Research Group:Centre for Condensed Matter and Material Physics

Number of Students:1

Length of Study in Years: 3 years

Full-time Project: yes


UKRI Future Leader Fellowship

Project Description:

Heat engines are one of the central tenets of thermodynamics. In cyclical heat engines, a working gas moves through a reversible cycle to transfer heat between a hot and a cold reservoir and perform useful work. The steam engine and the internal combustion engine are two well-known examples of cyclical heat engines. Molecular heat engines also convert thermal energy into useful work, however heat is transferred from a hot to a cold reservoir via the exchange of electrons resulting in an electrical current.

This project will make use of nanoparticle arrays that serve as a template structure to incorporate single molecules. In these networks, nanoparticles form the electronic contacts to the molecules and the overall electronic and thermoelectric behaviour of the network is determined by the ensemble-averaged properties of the nanoparticles and molecules as well as the network structure. In parallel with progress in electronic contacting, recent advances in the understanding of charge and heat transport through molecules reveal that the advantages of molecular heat engines could be very considerable if we can learn how to harness quantum effects.

This project will develop a comprehensive experimental toolkit for investigating thermoelectricity in ordered molecule-nanoparticle arrays and explore the ultimate efficiency limits of molecular-scale thermoelectric energy conversion to establish the paradigm of molecular heat engines in nanoscale thermodynamics.

The three goals of this project are to:

  • Design and develop experimental and analytical methods for detailed measurements of ordered molecule-nanoparticle arrays;
  • Demonstrate electric-field controlled electron transfer through a molecule-nanoparticle network and investigate electron-phonon interactions;
  • Demonstrate thermoelectric energy conversion in molecule-nanoparticle networks and determine the limits of their energy conversion efficiency;


A degree in Physics or Chemical Physics/Physical Chemistry

SPA Academics: Dr Jan Mol