SUBJECT: Ph.D. Dissertation Defense
BY: Ali Hussain Kazim
TIME: Thursday, June 15, 2017, 3:00 p.m.
PLACE: MRDC Building, 210
TITLE: Novel Electrolytes and System Designs for Thermo-electrochemical Cells
COMMITTEE: Dr. Baratunde Cola, Chair (ME)
Dr. Sheldon Jeter (ME)
Dr. Peter Hesketh (ME)
Dr. Marta Hatzell (ME)
Dr. Gleb Yushin (MSE)


Low-grade waste heat is ubiquitous and a byproduct of all energy conversion mechanisms. Thermo-electrochemical cells (thermocells) directly convert temperature difference to electromotive force with no moving parts. It is an inexpensive technology to harvest waste heat. However, low power conversion efficiency due to ohmic, interfacial charge transfer and mass transfer resistances has limited its use in commercial applications. This work explores improving electrochemical properties of the standard electrolyte and implementation of thermocells in applications providing liquid cooling. In the initial part of this dissertation, poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) poly (styrenesulfonate) was used to form a composite having percolated networks of dispersed carbon nanotubes. The composite was dispersed in the standard electrolyte of thermocells aqueous potassium ferri/ferrocyanide and the mixture was characterized using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. Analysis of the impedance spectra showed a 10% increase in ohmic conductivity and about a 5-fold decrease in interfacial charge transfer resistance in the composite electrolyte, which is caused by addition of the charge carriers, interfacial polarization and improved contact at the electrode/electrolyte interface. The enhancement of properties in the composite electrolyte increases the power of a thermocells by about 30%. Further, thermocells low efficiencies, restrict their use as a standalone energy harvesting device. To this end, flow thermo-electrochemical cell (fTEC) has been invented, fabricated and implemented specifically for data centers and it can be extended to wherever liquid cooling heat sinks are employed. The current sole purpose of heat sinks is to provide cooling, fTEC enable supplementing the existing purpose with energy harvesting and temperature monitoring for entire liquid flow line. The original contributions of this work are three fold. Firstly, composite of poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) poly (styrenesulfonate) and carbon nanotube was developed that improved the interfacial charge transfer resistance, ohmic conductivity and thermal conductivity of the benchmark electrolyte used for thermocells. Secondly, thermocell having flowing electrolyte was identified, fabricated and implemented. Thirdly, the design of the fTEC is improved by taking advantage of the higher temperature available and using electrodes providing larger surface area and faster charge transfer kinetics.