Thermal transport is a ubiquitous process that incorporates a wide range of physics and plays an essential role in nearly every technological application, ranging from space power generation to solar energy conversion. In this talk, I will describe our efforts to understand and manipulate microscopic heat transport processes using theory, computation, and experiment. In particular, I will describe a method that provides the first direct link between specific thermal atomic vibrational modes with Angstrom-scale wavelengths and atomic features at interfaces and atomically rough thin films. I will also introduce a new concept for a solar selective absorber that achieves remarkably high temperatures under unconcentrated sunlight, expanding the applications of solar thermal energy conversion.
Bio: Austin Minnich is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He received his Bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley in 2006 and his PhD from MIT in 2011, after which he started his position at Caltech. He is the recipient of a 2013 NSF CAREER Award and a 2015 ONR Young Investigator Award. His research interests focus on understanding the fundamental processes governing heat transport and using these insights to advance technologies for space exploration, consumer electronics, and energy conversion.