A new device being developed by Washington State University physicist Yi Gu could one day turn the heat generated by a wide array of electronics into a usable fuel source.
The device is a multicomponent, multilayered composite material called a van der Waals Schottky diode. It converts heat into electricity up to three times more efficiently than silicon -- a semiconductor material widely used in the electronics industry. While still in an early stage of development, the new diode could eventually provide an extra source of power for everything from smartphones to automobiles.
"The ability of our diode to convert heat into electricity is very large compared to other bulk materials currently used in electronics," said Gu, an associate professor in WSU's Department of Physics and Astronomy.
"In the future, one layer could be attached to something hot like a car exhaust or a computer motor and another to a surface at room temperature. The diode would then use the heat differential between the two surfaces to create an electric current that could be stored in a battery and used when needed."
Gu recently published a paper on the Schottky diode in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.
A new kind of diode
In the world of electronics, Schottky diodes are used to guide electricity in a specific direction, similar to how a valve in a water main directs the flow of liquid going through it. They are made by attaching a conductor metal like aluminum to a semiconductor material like silicon.
Instead of combining a common metal like aluminum or copper with a conventional semiconductor material like silicon, Gu's diode is made from a multilayer of microscopic, crystalline Indium Selenide. He and a team of graduate students used a simple heating process to modify one layer of the Indium Selenide to act as a metal and another layer to act as a semiconductor.
The researchers then used a new kind of confocal microscope developed by Klar Scientific, a start-up company founded in part by WSU physicist Matthew McCluskey, to study their materials' electronic properties.
Unlike its conventional counterparts, Gu's diode has no impurities or defects at the interface where the metal and semiconductor materials are joined together. The smooth connection between the metal and semiconductor enables electricity to travel through the multilayered device with almost 100 percent efficiency.
"When you attach a metal to a semiconductor material like silicon to form a Schottky diode, there are always some defects that form at the interface," said McCluskey, a co-author of the study. "These imperfections trap electrons, impeding the flow of electricity. Gu's diode is unique in that its surface does not appear to have any of these defects. This lowers resistance to the flow of electricity, making the device much more energy efficient."
Gu and his collaborators are currently investigating new methods to increase the efficiency of their Indium Selenide crystals. They are also exploring ways to synthesize larger quantities of the material so that it can be developed into useful devices.
"While still in the preliminary stages, our work represents a big leap forward in the field of thermoelectrics," Gu said. "It could play an important role in realizing a more energy-efficient society in the future."
Yi Gu | EurekAlert!
Appreciating the classical elegance of time crystals
20.09.2019 | ETH Zurich Department of Physics
'Nanochains' could increase battery capacity, cut charging time
20.09.2019 | Purdue University
How long the battery of your phone or computer lasts depends on how many lithium ions can be stored in the battery's negative electrode material. If the battery runs out of these ions, it can't generate an electrical current to run a device and ultimately fails.
Materials with a higher lithium ion storage capacity are either too heavy or the wrong shape to replace graphite, the electrode material currently used in...
To process information, photons must interact. However, these tiny packets of light want nothing to do with each other, each passing by without altering the...
Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.
The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.
At the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting 2019 (ISAL) in Darmstadt from September 23 to 25, 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, will present OLED light strips of any length with additional functionalities for the first time at booth no. 37.
Almost everyone is familiar with light strips for interior design. LED strips are available by the metre in DIY stores around the corner and are just as often...
Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....
19.09.2019 | Event News
10.09.2019 | Event News
04.09.2019 | Event News
20.09.2019 | Life Sciences
20.09.2019 | Life Sciences
20.09.2019 | Life Sciences