UK: PhD Studentship Smart Materials for Energy Applications at Loughborough University

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Research outline

The Peltier and Seebeck effects enable the conversion of a heat current into an electrical current (and vice-versa) and this effect is put to good use in thermoelectrics – otherwise known as Peltier cells. Thermoelectrics could be used to harvest waste heat, however, a poor efficiency of conversion limits their commercial application. Current research to address this issue focuses on improving the thermoelectric figure of merit – a quantity largely limited by the Wiedeman-Franz law: κ~LTσ where κ is the thermal conductivity; T is the temperature; σ is the electrical conductivity; and L is the Lorentz constant [(π2/3)(kB/e)2].

Spin caloritronics, on the other hand, describes the interplay between thermal transport and spin polarised currents. For example, it was demonstrated recently that a thermal gradient applied across a metallic, insulating, or semiconducting magnet can result in the generation of a spin polarized current [[i]],[[ii]]: the spin Seebeck effect.

The observation of the spin Seebeck effect has stimulated a wealth of theoretical output on potential applications such as magnetic heat valves [[iii]], position sensitive heat detectors [[iv]], and spin caloritronic nanomachines [4],[[v]]. It has also led to the suggestion of further improvements to the conversion of efficiency of thermoelectrics. The aim of this project will be to investigate the properties of the spin Seebeck effect.

Project summary

As part of the PhD you will be expected to characterise potential spin Seebeck samples using x-ray diffraction, x-ray reflectivity, transport measurements, thermal transport and magnetometry. It is also likely that you will prepare patterned thin films using pulsed laser deposition and physical vapour deposition techniques.


Students applying should normally have (or expect to achieve) a 1st class honours degree in a relevant physical sciences based subject (i.e. physics, materials science, electrical engineering).

Funding Notes

Funding for stipend and UK/EU fees is available for UK/EU students only. Students applying from outside the UK/EU countries will have to provide additional funding to cover the cost of overseas fees.

For more details, please see or

Details about the application process can be found via .

The deadline for applications is 10 March 2014. 


[[i]] Christophe Le Breton et al., Nature 475, 82–85 (2011)

[[ii]] K. Uchida et al., J. Appl. Phys. 111, 103903 (2012)

[[iii]] T. Heikkila et al., Phys. Rev. B 81, 100408 (2010)

[[iv]] G.E.W. Bauer et al., Nat. Mater. 11, 391 (2012)

[[v]] G.E.W. Bauer et al., Phys. Rev. B 81, 024427 (2010)

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