CONTACT: GARY GALLUZZO
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0009; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Nov. 8, 2001
UI researcher receives grant to study semiconductor materials
IOWA CITY, Iowa - University of Iowa researcher Thomas Boggess has
received a two-year, $152,000 grant from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's
Lincoln Laboratories to study materials useful in converting heat to electricity.
Boggess, professor and chair of the department of physics and astronomy
in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor in the department
of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, will
study semiconductor materials used in devices for electrical power generation.
He says that although solar cell technology is a well-known means for directly
converting visible light from the sun into electricity, a newer -- and potentially
more important, technology -- has been developed for obtaining electrical
power from the invisible, infrared light emitted by hot objects here on Earth.
"Breakthroughs in semiconductor growth technology have resulted in
new semiconductors designed to absorb the infrared light emitted by objects
heated to a temperature of approximately 1100 degrees Celsius. These semiconductors
form the basis for devices known as thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cells,"
he says. "TPV devices provide the opportunity for quietly and efficiently
generating electricity directly, for example, from waste industrial heat or
from a simple propane burner. Some people envision one day replacing the internal
combustion engine with such devices, although using TPV cells to supplement
engines in hybrid cars is perhaps a more realistic goal."
Although significant progress has been made in developing TPV technology,
improved cost effectiveness and practicality depend upon improving the efficiency
of the electrical conversion process. This process, in turn, is intimately
related to enhancements in the quality of the semiconductors used in the TPV
cells. Boggess plans to use short bursts of laser light to measure semiconductor
properties that are indicators of quality. Scientists at Lincoln Laboratories
will use that information to increase the quality of these semiconductors
and, ultimately, the efficiency of TPV cells.
Boggess is a member of the Optical Science and Technology Center, and the
UI research will be performed in the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories.