In the late 19th century, Edison observed electrical current flowing between hot and cold electrodes [1]. Since this discovery of thermionic emission, research has occurred with varying intensity in order to harness the simplicity and utility of the thermionic effect in power generation devices. Hatsopoulos and Gyftopoulos [2,3] provide details of the development of thermionic theory and practice. In general, thermionic power generation has not found widespread use, despite many inherent advantages over alternative power generation methods, because of material limitations that have precluded an attractive combination of power generation efficiency and capacity. This paper presents semiclassical and quantum models for the thermionic behavior of a newly developed class of materials, quantum wires, that may offer some promise in alleviating historic materials limitations of thermionic devices.

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