BNC Faculty Seminar: Thomas Beechem, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Birck Nanotechnology Center
September 16, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM


Fusing Light with Heat Thermal Physics for Nanophotonics & Vice Versa


Abstract:  Light exhibits a wave nature.  Phonons do too.  Within the infrared portion of the spectrum, these differing “waves” can interact to form hybrid energy carriers called polaritons.  Polaritons, in turn, provide fundamental advantages for optical functionality and thermal transport.  Here, means of capitalizing upon these advantages will be explored.

First, the necessity of creating alternative heat transport channels will be asserted by describing: (1) the generality of size induced reductions in thermal conductivity and (2) the inherently insulative nature of material boundaries on transport. Polaritons—and our ability to engineer them—will then be shown amenable to meeting these challenges. Specifically, polariton dispersion engineering will be demonstrated via an examination of actively tunable infrared metasurfaces leveraging voltage-induced changes in the optical properties of graphene and lead zirconate titanate (PZT).  Building from the ability to tailor dispersion, future directions will be described highlighting means of implementing polaritons to enhance not only nanoscale thermal transport but also infrared sensing and spectroscopy. 

Bio:  Thomas Beechem joined the faculty of Purdue University’s Mechanical Engineering Department in August of 2021.  Beforehand, he was a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM for 12 years where he held an affiliate appointment with the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT).  Thomas now leads the Specere Laboratory at Purdue, which focuses on leveraging nanoscale phonon-physics to create thermal, spectroscopic (i.e., sensing), and infrared solutions. He has authored more than 85 archival publications, holds 5 patents, and had his work selected as the featured “cover article” on 5 separate occasions by 6 different periodicals.  He received a 2015 Defense Program Award of Excellence and was named one of Sandia’s “Up and Coming Innovators” in 2016.  In 2017, he was named an associate editor for the Journal of Heat Transfer, a role that he remains in today.

Contact Details

Add to calendar