SUBJECT: Ph.D. Dissertation Defense
BY: Trevor Bright
TIME: Thursday, November 7, 2013, 8:00 a.m.
PLACE: Love Building, 210
TITLE: Infrared Properties of Dielectric Thin Films and Near-field Radiation for Energy Conversion
COMMITTEE: Dr. Zhuomin Zhang, Chair (ME)
Dr. Yogendra Joshi (ME)
Dr. Peter Hesketh (ME)
Dr. David Citrin (ECE)
Dr. Christopher Muratore (DCME)


Studies of the radiative properties of thin films and near-field radiation transfer in layered structures are important for applications in energy, near-field imaging, coherent thermal emission, and aerospace thermal management. A comprehensive study is performed on the optical constants of dielectric tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) and hafnium oxide (HfO2) thin films from visible to the far infrared using spectroscopic methods. These materials have broad applications in metallo-dielectric multilayers, anti-reflection coatings, and coherent emitters based on photonic crystal structures, especially at high temperatures since both materials have melting points above 2000 K. The dielectric functions of HfO2 and Ta2O5 obtained from this work may facilitate future design of devices with these materials. A parametric study of near-field TPV performance using a backside reflecting mirror is also performed. Currently proposed near-field TPV devices have been shown to have increased power throughput compared to their far-field counterparts, but whose conversion efficiencies are lower than desired. This is due to their low quantum efficiency caused by recombination of minority carriers and the waste of sub-bandgap radiation. The efficiency may be improved by adding a gold mirror as well as by reducing the surface recombination velocity, as demonstrated in this thesis. The analysis of the near-field TPV and proposed methods may facilitate the development or high-efficiency energy harvesting devices. Many near-field devices may eventually utilize metallo-dielectric structures which exhibit unique properties such as negative refraction due to their hyperbolic isofrequency contour. These metamaterials are also called indefinite materials because of their ability to support propagating waves with large lateral wavevectors, which can result in enhanced near-field radiative heat transfer. The energy streamlines in such structures are studied for the first time. Energy streamlines illustrate the flow of energy through a structure when the fields are evanescent and energy propagation is not ray like. The energy streamlines through two semi-infinite uniaxially anisotropic effective medium structures, separated by a small vacuum gap, are modeled using the Greenís function. The lateral shift and penetration depth are calculated from the streamlines and shown to be relatively large compared to the vacuum gap dimension. The study of energy streamlines in hyperbolic metamaterials helps understand the near-field energy propagation on a fundamental level.