Energy savings—easy as dirt, heat, pressure

Nov 27, 2012
MSU researcher Donald Morelli leads a team that has developed a new thermoelectrical material. The materials are used in cars, computers and other devices to capture waste heat are turn it into useable energy. Credit: G.L. Kohuth, Michigan State University.

(Phys.org)—By using common materials found pretty much anywhere there is dirt, a team of Michigan State University researchers have developed a new thermoelectric material.

This is important, they said, because the vast majority of heat that is generated from, for example, a , is lost through the tail pipe. It's the thermoelectric material's job to take that heat and turn it into something useful, like electricity.

The researchers, led by Donald Morelli, a professor of chemical engineering and , developed the material based on natural minerals known as tetrahedrites.

"What we've managed to do is synthesize some compounds that have the same composition as natural minerals," said Morelli, who also directs MSU's Center for Revolutionary Materials for . "The mineral family that they mimic is one of the most abundant minerals of this type on Earth – tetrahedrites.

"By modifying its composition in a very small way, we produced highly efficient thermoelectric materials."

MSU doctoral student Xu Lu is part of a team that has developed a new thermoelectric material. Here Lu works in the MSU Center for Revolutionary Materials for Solid State Energy Conversion. Credit: G.L. Kohuth, Michigan State University.

The search to develop new has been ongoing. Morelli said that while some new, more efficient materials have been discovered as of late, many of those are not suitable for large-scale applications because they are derived from rare or sometimes , or the synthesis procedures are complex and costly.

"Typically you'd mine minerals, purify them into individual elements, and then recombine those elements into new compounds that you anticipate will have good thermoelectric properties," he said. "But that process costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. Our method bypasses much of that."

The MSU researchers' method involves the use of very common materials, grinding them to a powder, then using pressure and heat to compress into useable sizes.

"It saves tremendously in terms of processing costs," he said.

The researchers expect this discovery could pave the way to many new, low-cost thermoelectric generation opportunities with applications that include waste heat recovery from industrial power plants, conversion of vehicle exhaust gas heat into electricity, and generation of electricity in home-heating furnaces.

The research was published in the online journal Advanced Energy Materials.

Explore further: Researchers bring clean energy a step closer

Related Stories

Scientists make nontoxic, bendable nanosheets

Apr 11, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Cornell materials scientists have developed an inexpensive, environmentally friendly way of synthesizing oxide crystal sheets, just nanometers thick, which have useful properties for electronics ...

Recommended for you

Researchers bring clean energy a step closer

Feb 27, 2015

For nearly half a century, scientists have been trying to replace precious metal catalysts in fuel cells. Now, for the first time, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have shown that an inexpensive metal-free catalyst ...

The construction of ordered nanostructures from benzene

Feb 27, 2015

A way to link benzene rings together in a highly ordered three-dimensional helical structure using a straightforward polymerization procedure has been discovered by researchers from RIKEN Center for Sustainable ...

Superatomic nickel core and unusual molecular reactivity

Feb 27, 2015

A superatom is a combination of two or more atoms that form a stable structural fragment and possess unique physical and chemical properties. Systems, that contain superatoms, open a number of amazing possibilities ...

NETL invents improved oxygen carriers

Feb 24, 2015

One of the keys to the successful deployment of chemical looping technologies is the development of affordable, high performance oxygen carriers. One potential solution is the naturally-occurring iron oxide, ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

retrosurf
5 / 5 (4) Nov 27, 2012
This is a nearly content-free article.
Micas? Zeolites? Silicates almost certainly.

Hey, throw me a bone and at least publish a pointer to the abstract:

http://onlinelibr...abstract

Graeme
not rated yet Nov 28, 2012
Thanks for that retrosurf. the materials are impure copper antimony sulfides. Contamination with zinc or iron.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.