Mass Production of Thermoelectric Materials Coming
Anyone who works with computers, cars, and many other devices can tell you how hot they get, and all of that heat is coming from wasted energy. For some time, people have been trying to reduce or capture that wasted energy, and thermoelectric materials, which can convert heat into electricity, can help. Sadly, thermoelectric materials are hard to produce, and thus have been limited to laboratories, but now researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM may be changing that.
For a thermoelectric material to be useful at capturing wasted energy, it has to have certain properties. Among these is ZT value, which relates to their efficiency, higher than one and the ability to withstand high temperatures without increasing resistance. One family of materials, called half-Heusler compounds, can satisfy these requirements, but have never been produced cost effectively before. That is what the researchers and their partners have changed by successfully producing the material, with most of the needed properties, in kilogram quantities.
With so many systems generating large amounts of wasted heat every day, it is obvious just how important this research could become. Hopefully it will not be long before these materials are fully, industry-ready.