New thermoelectric material is 'world’s most efficient'

New thermoelectric material is ‘world’s most efficient’
Northwestern University researchers have discovered a new thermoelectric material which they claim is the best in the world at converting waste heat to electricity.

While the inefficiency of current thermoelectric materials has limited their commercial use, the new material, which is based on the common semiconductor lead telluride, is expected to convert 15 to 20% of waste heat to useful electricity.

The researchers believe it could have applications in the automotive industry, as well as places where large combustion engines operate continuously, such as in large ships and tankers.

"Our system is the top performing thermoelectric system at any temperature," said Mercouri Kanatzidis, who led the research. "The material can convert heat to electricity at the highest possible efficiency. At this level, there are realistic prospects for recovering high-temperature waste heat and turning it into useful energy."

The new material is claimed to be nearly 30% more efficient than its predecessor. The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

Laura Hopperton

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I looked at the Nature article. The statement "Our system is the top performing thermoelectric system at any temperature," is not supported by their data. The 2.2 value for ZT only occurs at high temperature. At room temperature its 0.1, easily beaten by Bismuth Telluride.

Comment Bart, 24/09/2012

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