Technology 3 min read

Researchers Develop a More Efficient Thermoelectric Device

science photo /

science photo /

Several sources of wasted heat are around us, whether hot water lines in our homes or heat from our bodies. And we lose these residual heat to the atmosphere every day.

But there’s another option. We could also use a thermoelectric device to trap the wasted heat and convert it into useful electricity.

While the technology has existed for a while, it has never been efficient in real-world conditions. As a result, thermoelectric devices are not as popular as they should be today.

But that could change soon.

Thanks to researchers at Pennsylvania State University, we now have a module with high efficiencies previously obtained in lab settings.

In a statement, associate vice president for research and professor of materials science and engineering at Penn State, Shashank Priya said:

“Penn State has developed extensive expertise in the design of thermoelectric materials and devices that can be utilized for power generation and cooling.”

The researchers described how the new device works in a paper in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

An Efficient Thermoelectric Device for Power Generation and Cooling

When placed near a heat source, the modules cause electrons to move from the hot side to the cold side. And this produces an electric current.

According to the Penn State scientists, the device doesn’t contain a moving part. Also, it produces no chemical reaction or emissions, making it a promising source of clean energy.

In a test, the module generated as much as 28 percent more power and 162 percent higher power density than the commercial module.

Since the device uses half the thermoelectric materials in commercial modules, it’s less expensive and lightweight. So, they can power wearable devices such as a smartwatch or even cardiac pacemakers.

Co-author of the study, Ravi Anant Kishore noted:

“These modules can also be conveniently deployed on the human body to harvest body heat, thereby providing a continuous power source for wearable and implantable devices.”

Meanwhile, the thermoelectric device also becomes cold, and it condenses humidity into ice when exposed to a steady electricity supply.

According to the researchers, the technology can serve as a viable alternative to air-conditioning units. This is especially true for units that contain hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas.

“Based on this work, it seems going forward thermoelectrics can make a big difference in power generation and cooling,” Priya said.

Read More: New Prototype Device can Generate Electricity From Shadows

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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