World’s Most Efficient Thermoelectric Material Breaks World Record for Turning Heat into Electricity

By: | November 20th, 2019

Image courtesy: TU Wien

Researchers from Vienna University of Technology discovered a new type of thermoelectric material that generates electrical current very efficiently.

Thermoelectric materials convert heat into electrical energy.  The amount of energy that can be generated from a particular material is measured by the ZT value. So far, the best thermoelectric had ZT values of around 2.5 to 2.8. However researchers from TU Wien (Vienna) have developed a material with a ZT value of 5 to 6.

No need of cables:

Scientists’ researched different thermoelectric materials for years. Their years of efforts led to the discovery of this new material which is a thin layer of iron, vanadium, tungsten and aluminum applied to a silicon crystal.

It is so effective that it allows sensors and even small computer processors to supply themselves with energy wirelessly. As the electricity is generated by the temperature differences, there is no need of connecting small electrical devices to cables.

Prof. Ernst Bauer from the Institute of Solid State Physics at TU Wien, said, “A good thermoelectric material must show a strong Seebeck effect, and it has to meet two important requirements that are difficult to reconcile,”

“On the one hand, it should conduct electricity as well as possible; on the other hand, it should transport heat as poorly as possible. This is a challenge because electrical conductivity and thermal conductivity are usually closely related.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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