Energy WrapWednesday 8th May 2013
How do you fancy creating electricity by throwing some kitchen film wrap like material over something generating heat, such as a an electric motor or some other heat generating appliance - is that possible, well read on.
Thermoelectric materials can be used to turn waste heat into electricity or to provide refrigeration without any liquid coolants, and a research team from the University of Michigan has found a way to nearly double the efficiency of a particular class of them that's made with organic semiconductors.
Organic semiconductors are carbon-rich compounds that are relatively cheap, abundant, lightweight and tough. But they haven't traditionally been considered as thermoelectric material candidates, because they have been inefficient in carrying out the essential heat-to-electricity conversion process.
University of Michigan researchers improved on the state-of-the-art organic semiconductors by nearly 70 percent, resulting in the possibility of developing it into a very usable product.
"That's about half as efficient as current inorganic semiconductors," said project leader Kevin Pipe, an associate professor of mechanical engineering as well as electrical engineering and computer science. Pipe is a co-author of a paper on the research published in Nature Materials.
The researchers developed the organic material, which is a mixture of two polymers: the conjugated polymer PEDOT and the polyelectrolyte PSS. It has previously been used as a transparent electrode for devices such as organic LEDs and solar cells, as well as an antistatic agent for materials such as photographic films.
To improve the materials thermoelectric efficiency, the researchers restructured it at the nanoscale, leading to large increases in both the electrical conductivity and the thermoelectric energy conversion efficiency. The organic thermoelectric material would be effective at temperatures up to about 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Eventually this technology could allow us to create a flexible sheet---think of Saran [kitchen] Wrap---that can be rolled out or wrapped around a hot object to generate electricity or provide cooling," Pipe said.
Interesting research that could provide a wrap around energy solution for the future.
Wednesday 8th May 2013