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Lead Telluride-Based Thermoelectric Device Breaks Efficiency Record Barrier

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Just like a savior knight, energy recovery comes to help the industries that pollute most and that waste large quantities of heat. A 14% efficiency has been reported for a newly-invented thermoelectric nanomaterial by the researchers of Northwestern University in Illinois. So far, efficiency values in this field didn’t exceed 10%.

Their lead-based nanomaterial has been produced by putting nanocrystals of rock salt into lead telluride (lead an tellurium on a lattice). Lead telluride has been part of past experiments with thermoelectric devices, but had yet enough efficiency to compete with other products.

The NU researchers were not the first to attempt a nanoscale inclusion in bulk material in order to improve the thermoelectric properties of a material, but they did their job better than others. Their new material reduces the phenomenon called “electron scattering,” an enemy of thermoelectric conversion efficiency.

A lot of industries could benefit from the raising performances of thermoelectric devices, from coal plants to paper mills, because all of them waste a lot of heat into the atmosphere and produce pollution along with that waste, in vain.

There is a country that gets one third of its electricity out of thermoelectricity: Finland. The country’s heavy industry users had interesting financial incentives to sell their excess power to the grid for a higher price.

Reducing the energy consumption and improving the efficiency of various industries could eventually reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere considerably. Added to that, reducing the amount of heat released into the atmosphere also reduces global warming directly and indirectly, so this is a technological solution worth mentioning and studying for the future.

[via cleantechnica]

Just like a savior knight, energy recovery comes to help the industries that pollute most and that waste large quantities of heat. A 14% efficiency has been reported for a newly-invented thermoelectric nanomaterial by the researchers of Northwestern University in Illinois. So far, efficiency values in this field didn’t exceed 10%.
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3 COMMENTS

  1. “… reducing the amount of heat released into the atmosphere also reduces global warming …”

    This is not a good conclusion to reach, as (so I believe) global warming is caused by greenhouse gases and by pollution. The temperature of air coming out of exhaust pipes & chimneys is almost totally irrelevant.

  2. If someone has a citation or reference to the following claim, I’d be interested to know because it doesn’t sound right to me:

    “There is a country that gets one third of its electricity out of thermoelectricity: Finland.”

    In the context of this article, the word “thermoelectricity” refers to a particular type of energy conversion: converting heat to electricity based on the Seebeck effect. I would be very surprised if Finland gets even a measurable amount of it’s electricity using this sort of technology.

    More generally, the word “thermoelectricity” can be used be used for any sort of heat to electricity plant, including particularly coal plants. I could readily believe Finland gets a third of it’s electricity this way, but Seebeck effect based devices as implied by the article? No likely.

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