Solar panels harvest light and thermoelectric devices harvest the heat – but recently, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd have developed a blend of both: a power-generating device that can convert both light and temperature difference into an electric current.
Not at the same time, though. For the moment, the device is only aimed at small-current medical sensors, for example, but has lots of prospects in any field where there’s heat and light.
How did they do it? Simply enough. The Fujitsu researchers wired multiple pairs of an n-type organic semiconductor and a p-type organic semiconductor, which are both already used in solar cells and thermoelectric converters.
It’s only a matter of a switch, that senses when there’s light or not, to turn the device into “solar cell” mode or “thermoelectric mode.” Because the structure uses the same materials for both types of conversions, it’s not possible to use them at the same time. But I guess the thing can appreciate what’s more worthy of using at a given moment, by doing a scan and comparing the output.
The device has been unveiled at the 2010 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting which took place from Dec 6 to 8 in San Francisco.
Neat, isn’t it?