Novel material converts waste heat to electricity with record efficiency | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: June 22, 2024

Researchers at Northwestern University have come up with an extremely high-performing thermoelectric material that may be the most efficient yet at converting waste heat into electricity.

Thermoelectric systems generate electricity by using a temperature gradient. When one side of special material is heated, it can cause electrons to start moving from the warmer side to the cooler side, generating an electric current as a result. By tapping into this technology, scientists hope that one day they will be able to recycle energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat in electronics, power plants, and engines.

In thermoelectrics, the efficiency of waste heat conversion is expressed by its “figure of merit,” or ZT. The higher the number, the better the conversion rate, and in this recent breakthrough, the scientists claim to have hit a record ZT of 3.1.

As reported by New Atlas, the key was a material called tin selenide, which the team purified and made it in a polycrystalline form. After a few tests and tweaks, the team found the material to possess all the necessary properties to become a viable material for converting waste heat to electricity.

“This opens the door for new devices to be built from polycrystalline tin selenide pellets and their applications explored,” said study author Mercouri Kanatzidis. “These devices have not caught on like solar cells, and there are significant challenges to making good ones. We are focusing on developing a material that would be low cost and high performance and propel thermoelectric devices into more widespread application.”

Study source: Nature Materials — Polycrystalline SnSe with a thermoelectric figure of merit greater than the single crystal

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

Could “antivitamins” be the cure to antibiotic resistance?

The first naturally-occurring bacteria killer, penicillin, was discovered nearly a century ago and with it came the advent of a new class of medicines: ...

Read More

Pittsburgh will become a dark sky city in 2022

Anyone who lives in a big city knows that stars are a rare sight due to light pollution, but that may soon change in ...

Read More

5 simple yet profound ways to make the world a better place today

The word activism can bring up images of aggression and vehemence, but it turns out that activism can be practiced in gentle ways, too. ...

Read More

Removable solar panels might soon be rolled out on railway tracks

Solar panels are being laid out "like carpet" across Swiss train rails as part of the country's renewable energy initiative. Swiss startup company Sun-Ways ...

Read More