Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Improving materials that convert heat to electricity and vice-versa

06.05.2013
Thermoelectric materials can be used to turn waste heat into electricity or to provide refrigeration without any liquid coolants, and a research team from the University of Michigan has found a way to nearly double the efficiency of a particular class of them that's made with organic semiconductors.

Organic semiconductors are carbon-rich compounds that are relatively cheap, abundant, lightweight and tough. But they haven't traditionally been considered candidate thermoelectric materials because they have been inefficient in carrying out the essential heat-to-electricity conversion process.

Today's most efficient thermoelectric materials are made of relatively rare inorganic semiconductors such as bismuth, tellurium and selenium that are expensive, brittle and often toxic. Still, they manage to convert heat into electricity more than four times as efficiently as the organic semiconductors created to date.

This greater efficiency is reflected in a metric known by researchers as the thermoelectric "figure of merit." This metric is approximately 1 near room temperature for state-of-the-art inorganic thermoelectric materials, but only 0.25 for organic semiconductors.

U-M researchers improved upon the state-of-the-art in organic semiconductors by nearly 70 percent, achieving a figure-of-merit of 0.42 in a compound known as PEDOT:PSS.

"That's about half as efficient as current inorganic semiconductors," said project leader Kevin Pipe, an associate professor of mechanical engineering as well as electrical engineering and computer science. Pipe is a co-author of a paper on the research published in Nature Materials on May 5, 2013.

PEDOT:PSS is a mixture of two polymers: the conjugated polymer PEDOT and the polyelectrolyte PSS. It has previously been used as a transparent electrode for devices such as organic LEDs and solar cells, as well as an antistatic agent for materials such as photographic films.

One of the ways scientists and engineers increase a material's capacity for conducting electricity is to add impurities to it in a process known as doping. When these added ingredients, called dopants, bond to the host material, they give it an electrical carrier. Each of these additional carriers enhances the material's electrical conductivity.

In PEDOT doped by PSS, however, only small fraction of the PSS molecules actually bond to the host PEDOT; the rest of the PSS molecules do not become ionized and are inactive. The researchers found that these excess PSS molecules dramatically inhibit both the electrical conductivity and thermoelectric performance of the material.

"The trouble is that the inactive PSS molecules push the PEDOT molecules further apart, making it harder for electrons to jump between PEDOT molecules," Pipe said. "While ionized PSS molecules improve electrical conductivity, non-ionized PSS molecules reduce it."

To improve its thermoelectric efficiency, the researchers restructured the material at the nanoscale. Pipe and his team figured out how to use certain solvents to remove some of these non-ionized PSS dopant molecules from the mixture, leading to large increases in both the electrical conductivity and the thermoelectric energy conversion efficiency.

This particular organic thermoelectric material would be effective at temperatures up to about 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Eventually this technology could allow us to create a flexible sheet---think of Saran Wrap---that can be rolled out or wrapped around a hot object to generate electricity or provide cooling," Pipe said.

The paper is titled "Engineered doping of organic semiconductors for enhanced thermoelectric efficiency." This work was supported as part of the Center for Solar and Thermal Energy Conversion, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

Kevin Pipe:
https://me-web2.engin.umich.edu/pub/directory/bio?uniqname=pipe

Nicole Casal Moore | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen
24.03.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

nachricht Researchers make flexible glass for tiny medical devices
24.03.2017 | Brigham Young University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>