Solar Thermal/Thermionic Energy Converters

About the project or challenge area

Solar thermal technology [1], is promising for both small and utility scale renewable energy systems and solar thermionics [2] is an emerging technology where solar energy heats a metal such that electrons are emitted and collected by a cooled anode to create an electric current [3,4]. This project is a collaboration between Physics, Chemistry and the newly formed School of Electrical, Electronic and Mechanical Engineering whereby nanostructured surfaces will be optimised for solar absorption, thermal emissivity and electron emission with the use of nanocrystalline diamond. This work is an extension to an EPSRC grant [5] where a number of proof of principle results were obtained [4,6] that show solar thermionic energy converters are a practical possibility. This work will build on these results and will aim to make practical solar thermionic devices. Applicants should have an interest in one or more of these areas : electromagnetic modelling, nano and micro-surface processing and characterisation and optical, electrical and thermal characterisation.

[1] Granqvist C 1985 Spectrally selective coatings for energy efficiency and solar applications Phys. Scr. 32 401–7
[2] Naito H, Kohsaka Y, Cooke D and Arashi H 1996 Development of a solar receiver for a high-efficiency thermionic/thermoelectric conversion system Sol. Energy 58 191–5
[3] Martin T L et al 2011 Lithium monolayers on single crystal C(100) oxygen-terminated diamond MRS Online Proc. Libr. 1282
[4] Dominguez-Andrade, H, et al 2019, ‘Characterisation of thermionic emission current with a laser-heated system’. Review of Scientific Instruments, vol 90., pp. 045110
[5] EP/K030302/1 Energy and the Physical Sciences:Beta-enhanced thermionic energy converters and nuclear batteries employing nanostructured diamond electrodes
[6] Hanyu Cen, Sara Nunez-Sanchez, Andrei Sarua, Ian Bickerton, Neil A. Fox and Martin J. Cryan, “Solar thermal characterization of micropatterned high temperature selective surfaces”, J. Photon. Energy 10(2), 024503 (2020)

About you

A degree in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering or Physics would be preferred. Training will be given as part of the project.

How to apply

All students can apply using the button below, following the Admissions Statement (PDF, 188kB). Please note that this is an advertised project, which means you only have to complete Section A of the Research Statement

This project is not funded, for further details please use this link.

Before applying, we recommend getting in touch with the project's supervisors. If you are interested in this project and would like to learn more about the research you will be undertaking, please use the contact details on this page.


Your supervisor for this project will be Professor Martin Cryan in the School of Electrical, Electronic and Mechanical Engineering. Contact details: +44 117 455 3460 or email

Hind Saidani-Scott Supervisor

Your co-supervisor for this project will be Dr Hind Saidani-Scott in the School of Electrical, Electronic and Mechanical Engineering. Contact tel:+44 117 455 3557 or email:

Find out more about your prospective research community

The Low Carbon Energy theme is a vibrant community of researchers who integrate expertise across multiple disciplines to develop sustainable energy policy and technologies which are crucial to providing a safe, reliable and low-cost energy supply for a growing global population. We innovate in every part of the energy system, from generation and storage, to regulation and end-user demand Find out more about the Low Carbon Energy theme.

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