There is a growing demand for smaller and more efficient thermoelectric generators. Emerging research findings on nanostructures reveal a potential for the expansion of commercial applications.
Atomically Thin Nanowires Convert Heat to Electricity More Efficiently
On May 21st, 2018 ACS Nano published a report by University of Warwick researchers Drs Andrij Vasylenko, Samuel Marks, Jeremy Sloan, and David Quigley on the use of ultra-thin nanowires in thermoelectric generators. These nanowires are as thin as an atom and more efficient than most alternative materials.
“In contrast to three-dimensional material, isolated nanowires conduct less heat and more electricity at the same time. These unique properties yield unprecedented efficiency of heat-to-electricity conversion in one-dimensional materials,” researcher Dr. Vasylenko commented in a press release.
Researchers came to these findings by first examining the crystallization of tin telluride in carbon nanotubes and determining a direct relationship between the size and structure of a nanowire. Findings were supported by experimental imaging and ARCHER Supercomputer computations. This technique was then applied to generate thermoelectric energy from tin telluride nanowires as small as 1 atom in diameter.
Giant Enhancement in Rashba Spin‐Seebeck Effect in NiFe/p‐Si Thin Films
Meanwhile, mechanical engineers at the University of California, Riverside, have discovered additional ultra-thin nanomaterials that efficiently conduct thermoelectric energy. This research, conducted by Ravindra Bhardwaj, Paul Lou, and Sandeep Kumar, found that nickel-iron alloy and silicon have the capacity to generate thermoelectric energy.
The applications of thermoelectric generators are limited because they are primarily made of complex and expensive materials. This research sought to solve this problem by exploring various inexpensive, natural materials’ capacity to generate thermoelectric power. Researchers found that when an ultra-thin two-layer generator constructed of nickel-iron Permalloy and p-type silicon was exposed to heat on the Permalloy side, an electric voltage was created. This phenomenon is possible due to the Rashba spin-Seebeck effect.
Potential applications for this technology include thermoelectric computer chips, automobile electronics, and more efficient solar panels. Kumar notes that "such devices will be able to generate electricity in any situation in which there are small gradients in temperature.” Future research is expected to investigate the energy potential of multiple layers and other inexpensive, natural materials.
These scientific advancements have the potential to revolutionize the sustainable energy industry and change the way thermoelectric generators are constructed. Marlow II-VI continues to innovate its line of products for various industrial and consumer industries, striving to provide reliable and cost-effective solutions. Be sure to check out our research & development page for extensive information about how we continue to innovate our cutting-edge technology in this dynamic industry.
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