Thermoelectric Materials Can Increase Energy Efficiency
It seems humans are facing the biggest challenge of the century i.e. to solve energy crisis. We are running the risk of exhausting fossil fuel reserves. Scientists all over the world are working hard to solve this problem. Researchers at the University of Arhus, Riso-DTU and the University of Copenhagen are banking heavily on properties of thermoelectric materials, which is of great importance for their practical application. This material turns heat into electricity more efficiently than anything available today.
Thermoelectric materials can be used for the development of new cooling methods. This improvement can arrest the use of greenhouse gas (R-134a). The researchers are optimistic about thermoelectric materials in the group of clathrates, which create crystals full of ‘nano-cages’. Thermal conductivity of the nano-cages can be reduced if a heavy atom is placed inside those cages.
Thermoelectric materials can be used to build up vehicles that are more fuel-efficient and for more environmentally friendly. Thermoelectric materials have some unique properties; these materials can be assembled into units, which can convert the thermal difference into electrical energy or vice versa – electrical current to cooling. For efficient use, the material should supply a high voltage and have good electrical conductivity. But the thermal conductivity of the material should be low. This low thermal conductivity is very important because it will lessen the “electrical” wear and tear of a device. Car manufacturers are finding the thermoelectric materials very attractive for the conversion of wasted heat into electrical energy.
Overall the majority of the heat from vehicles is wasted. Using thermoelectric materials we can turn the wasted heat of various devices such as a car’s exhaust pipe or a power station, into useful power. This material transforms heat into electricity by using the difference in temperature across the different sides of a device. If we attach a thermoelectric device into a car’s exhaust pipe, it can produce electricity which can be used for driving the car or charging a battery.