A Cheap Material for Producing Power from Waste Heat

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Machines produce a lot of waste heat, and if we can capture that heat we can convert it into electric energy. Capturing thermal energy is currently inefficient because of thermal dynamics and the lack of super capacitors. Not to be deterred by these obstacles, researchers have found ways to efficiently capture thermal energy. By using an inexpensive material a small thermoelectric can be placed to convert heat to power.

“This looks like a very smart way to realize high performance,” says Li-Dong Zhao, a materials scientist at Beihang University who was not involved with the work. He notes there are still a few more steps to take before these materials can become high-performing thermoelectric generators. However, he says, “I think this will be used in the not too far future.”

The result, which they report today in Nature Materials, was not only a thermal conductivity below that of single-crystal tin selenide but also a ZT of 3.1. “This opens the door for new devices to be built from polycrystalline tin selenide pellets and their applications to be explored,” Kanatzidis says.

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