Research Seminars

All seminars will be held on Friday at 3:10 p.m. in 101 Roberts Hall unless otherwise noted.

Upcoming Seminars | Fall 2015

Date Speakers Univeristy Seminar Title
Dec. 4 Taylor Sparks, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Materials Science & Engineering
University of Utah Understanding the role of crystal structure on thermal conductivity and thermopower in oxides

Renewable energy technology and infrastructure continues to gradually develop and mature. In the meantime, a greater emphasis must be placed on improving energy efficiency in existing energy technologies. One way to do so is through increasing the operating temperature of gas turbine engines by improving thermal barrier coatings. Another method is to harvest waste heat using thermoelectric power generators. In either case, new materials featuring improved thermal and electrical properties will drive innovation. 

In this talk I will discuss some of the fundamental structure-property relationships that dictate thermal conductivity and thermopower. In the context of several oxide material systems, Bi4Ti3O12, Sr2Nb2O7, RE2SrAl2O7 (RE=rare earth), Gd8+xCa2+y(SiO4)6O2+3x/2+y, and LixMg1-xMn2O4, I will describe the role of crystal structure in reducing thermal conductivity and increasing thermopower. Aspects I will cover include mass contrast in point defects, defects on multiple sublattices, virtual crystal approximation, phonon mean free path, anisotropic block layer structures, cation ordering, Jahn-Teller distortions, crystal field and coordination, and spin and orbital degeneracy. 


Dr. Sparks is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Utah. He did his BS in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Utah, his MS in Materials at the University of California, Santa Barbara, his PhD in Applied Physics at Harvard University in David Clarke's laboratory, and a postdoc with Ram Seshadri at the Materials Research Laboratory at UCSB. His research centers primarily around energy materials. He is an active researcher in both renewable energy enabling technologies such as thermoelectrics and batteries, as well as conventional energy such as coalbed methane biogasification. Additionally, Dr. Sparks is an expert in the emerging field of materials informatics having done research on data-mining approaches for new materials discovery and data-driven analysis of engineering technologies including both performance and sustainability considerations. 

For further information on the seminars, or to visit with the speakers, please contact Anne Camper at

Seminar series sponsored by the College of Engineering


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