20 January 2011

Breakthrough In Converting Heat Waste To Electricity

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Researchers at Northwestern University have placed nanocrystals of rock salt into lead telluride, creating a material that can harness electricity from heat-generating items such as vehicle exhaust systems, industrial processes and equipment and sun light more efficiently than scientists have seen in the past

The material exhibits a high thermoelectric figure of merit that is expected to enable 14 percent of heat waste to electricity, a scientific first. Chemists, physicists and material scientists at Northwestern collaborated to develop the material. The results of the study are published by the journal Nature Chemistry.

"It has been known for 100 years that semiconductors have this property that can harness electricity," said Mercouri Kanatzidis, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

"To make this an efficient process, all you need is the right material, and we have found a recipe or system to make this material."

Kanatzidis, co-author of the study, and his team dispersed nanocrystals of rock salt (SrTe) into the material lead telluride (PbTe). Past attempts at this kind of nanoscale inclusion in bulk material have improved the energy conversion efficiency of lead telluride, but the nano inclusions also increased the scattering of electrons, which reduced overall conductivity.

(EnergyDaily)

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