Thermoelectric materials can convert heat into electrical energy.
This is due to the so-called Seebeck effect: If there is a temperature difference between the two ends of such a material, electrical voltage can be generated and current can start to flow. The amount of electrical energy that can be generated at a given temperature difference is measured by the so-called ZT value: The higher the ZT value of a material, the better its thermoelectric properties. The best thermoelectrics to date were measured at ZT values of around 2.5 to 2.8. Scientists at the Vienna University of Technology have now succeeded in developing a completely new material with a ZT value of 5 to 6. It is a thin layer of iron, vanadium, tungsten and aluminium applied to a silicon crystal.
The new material is so effective that it could be used in the future to provide energy for sensors or even small computer processors. Instead of connecting small electrical devices to cables, they could generate their own electricity from temperature differences. The new material has now been presented in the journal “Nature”.
This story initially appeared on ABA – Invest in Austria‘s website.