Converting heat into electricity has not gained much popularity, mainly because scientists have failed to find the right material that can conduct electricity without conducting heat. The few attempts that have been made, ended up with rare, toxic, or super expensive thermoelectric materials, which are also not extremely efficient and therefore hardly cost-effective.
Alphabet Energy, a company based in California, however, claims to have found the magic material, and they are not planning to keep it off the shelves for too long. By the end of the year, the company is commercializing tetrahedrite, the highly efficient, naturally occurring, affordable and safe thermoelectric material.
According to specialists from world’s leading scientific institutes like Purde University and MIT, the material is unique in thermoelectrics, as it does not require massive initial investment, unlike other materials, and it is readily available in nature. These two factors have a great influence on the price of the material. To compare the figures, the price of currently known materials of this kind varies between $24 and $146 per kilogram, while one kilogram of tetrahedrite costs only $4.
The last but definitely not least incredible advantage of this material is its efficiency. Tests conducted on harnessing heat from car exhausts with other thermoelectric materials have resulted in efficiency of 2.5%. Under the same tests, tetrahedrite managed to achieve the incredible 5-10%.
Although the company is starting with small scale sales of stand-alone generators, their overall aims are much bigger. As Matt Scullin, the CEO of Alphabet Energy, revealed, their ultimate goal is to team up with the big companies in the car industry and jointly reach new heights in harnessing waste energy from heat produced by car exhausts.
Image (c) Alphabet Energy