A research led by the Prof. Jonathan Coleman at the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN), from the Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland has discovered a new method of splitting layered materials with the aim of building atom-thick nanosheets for use in thermoelectric devices.
By using a technology that is normally suited to cleaning jewelery, with common solvents, ultrasounds, and 1 milligram of layered material (such as graphite), Dr. Valeria Nicolosi, the collaborator from the University of Oxford says they can make “billions and billions of one-atom-thick nanosheets can be made at the same time from a wide variety of exotic layered materials.”
Thermoelectric materials are being studied all over the world for the endless possibilities of energy generation, since in gas-fired plants, for example, 50% of the energy is lost as heat. Coal-fired power plants do even worse, 70%. Thermoelectric devices could harvest the lost energy of those power plants and reduce the CO2 emissions correspondingly.
Not only graphite can be “sliced” with Coleman’s method, though. He says that his team will study applications of this technology on Boron Nitride, Molybdenum disulfide, and Bismuth telluride, because each of them can be use either as a metal, semiconductor or an insulator, depending on how pure it is and how the atoms are structured. Coleman envisions he will work with some 150 other substances in the search for the perfect thermoelectric material.