Atomic Layer Deposition Improves Thermoelectric Materials

improvedtherResearchers at Aalto University School of Chemical Technology developed a new cost-effective method to convert waste energy into electricity without carbon dioxide emissions.

The team defined the synthesis method as extremely suitable for growing films made of thermoelectric zinc oxide material. To improve the thermoelectric properties of the material, the team added small amounts of either aluminium or phosphorus, which did not change the crystal structure. They then used Atomic layer deposition (ALD) technique, which  synthesizes thin films.

In general, any optimization of thermoelectric properties leads to improvement of one but deterioration of another. The scientists, however, discovered that using ALD to produce nanostructures, helps overcoming this limitation.

As Tommi Tynell, a doctoral candidate conducting the research states, using this method it would be possible to develop generators that have the material inside, and convert waste heat into electricity.

He predicts that in near future, this can be used in buildings, where the material is fitted inside the walls, or in vehicles to reduce fuel consumption. Installing the materials near human bodies, would convert body heat into energy.

In addition, the study suggested that fabrication of various nanostructures could improve the properties even further. Camping generators are already manufactured with thermoelectric materials, however they are somewhat toxic and expensive, and therefore new materials should be developed very soon.

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