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Discovery: Clathrates Thermoelectric Materials Offer Better Efficiency


Thermoelectric materials transform the temperature difference into electrical energy, or the electrical energy into heat. To utilize it effectively, the material used is required to have high electrical conductivity and a low thermal one. One interesting application is cooling based on heat, by using electrical current as an intermediate. The earlier article about Vatican explained how they did just that, but using PV panels. We’re talking about thermal energy here, or maybe the infrared spectrum.

Some researchers from the University of i…rhus, Denmark, have studied promising thermoelectric materials from the group or clathrates, which create crystals full of ‘nano-cages’.

By placing a heavy atom in each nano-cage, they can reduce the crystals’ ability to conduct heat. Until now it was thought that it was the heavy atoms random movements in the cages that were the cause of the poor thermal conductivity, but this has been shown to not be true, explains Asger B. Abrahamsen, senior scientist at Risi¸-DTU.

The researchers have used the technique of neutron scattering, which gives them opportunity to look into the material and see the atoms’ movements.

“Our data shows that, it is rather the atoms’ shared pattern of movement that determines the properties of these thermoelectric materials. A discovery that will be significant for the design of new materials that utilize energy even better”, explains Kim Lefmann, associate professor at the Nano-Science Center, the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

So, the new research gives us bright perspectives on efficient energy capturing based on heat. All modern cars using fossil fuels create heat, and by it, they lose efficiency and thus precious energy. Newer hybrid models could profit from this, converting the gasoline engine’s heat into electricity to store and use from the car’s battery, saving energy and increasing mileage.

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