II-VI Marlow Blog

How Cold Neutrons Can Improve Performance of Thermoelectrics

This entry was posted in TE materials , Energy Efficiency and Thermoelectrics on February 21, 2019 by II-VI Marlow Industries

Our researchers and engineers here at II-VI Marlow thrive off of finding new and innovative ways to improve our technology. Thermoelectric devices provide renewable, sustainable energy in many different ways, but the technology itself is still fairly new and scientists world-wide are trying to engineer more efficient devices. We already know that thermoelectric technology is versatile and reliable, but when they become efficient on a large scale, their potential applications could be endless.

For thermoelectric devices to maintain maximum efficiency, their materials need to be good conductors of electricity as well as poor conductors of heat. Materials that achieve both of these properties are rarely found, so scientists and engineers around the world have been busy at work identifying these materials as well as finding alternatives.

Engineers at Duke University are testing cold neutron scattering techniques to study the vibrations of atoms. This vibrational movement of these atoms, called “phonons”, is what moves heat throughout a material. These scientists hope that by understanding the movement of these low-energy phonons through a thermoelectric material, they will be able to control them and improve electrical conductivity while also minimizing the heat conductivity.

There were some engineering challenges along the way, as there usually are with high-temperature testing, but the scientists combatted these challenges by encapsulating the samples in quartz to maintain a stable environment. These discoveries could mean big things for future thermoelectric technology. With the creation of these seemingly oxymoronic materials that conduct electricity but not heat, the level of efficiency which thermoelectric devices can reach would be more than ever before.

Our devices  are applicable across a wide range of industries. If you're unsure about our process and how we can help you with thermoelectric technology, we have put together a comprehensive guide to thermoelectric technology.

Do you have a thermoelectric challenge or question? Please contact our experts via the link below!

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