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.