Electricity generated from waste heat

Power from nowhere

The new process will enable 14 per cent of heat waste conversion to electricity.

“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.” To make this possible, the team dispersed nanocrystals of rock salt (SrTe) into the material lead telluride (PbTe).

They also managed to use nanostructures in lead telluride to reduce electron scattering and increase the energy conversion efficiency of the material. “We can put this material inside of an inexpensive device with a few electrical wires and attach it to something like a light bulb,” said Vinayak Dravid.

“The device can make the light bulb more efficient by taking the heat it generates and converting part of the heat, 10 to 15 per cent, into a more useful energy like electricity.” Kanatzidis said that automotive, chemical, brick, glass and any industry that uses heat to make products could make their system more efficient with the use of this find.

“These types of structures may have other implications in the scientific community that we haven’t thought of yet, in areas such as mechanical behaviour and improving strength or toughness. Hopefully others will pick up this system and use it,” concluded Dravid.

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