Rattling ions limit heat flow in materials used to reduce carbon emissions, study finds

August 25, 2013

A new study published today in the journal Nature Materialss has found a way to suppress the thermal conductivity in sodium cobaltate so that it can be used to harvest waste energy.

Led by scientists at Royal Holloway University, the team conducted a series of experiments on crystals of sodium cobaltate grown in the University's Department of Physics. X-ray and neutron scattering experiments were carried out at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility and in the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, using the UK's national supercomputer facility HECToR to make their calculations.

They believe their approach can easily be applied to other substances, since they only require tiny crystals and will, therefore, guide the design of the next generation of thermoelectric materials.

"The global target to reduce has brought research into thermoelectric materials centre stage," said Professor Jon Goff from the Department of Physics at Royal Holloway.

"If we can design better , we will be able to reduce the of cars by converting waste heat in exhausts into electrical power, as well as cooling hot spots on using solid state refrigerators."

Thermoelectric coolers are also used in air conditioners and in scientific equipment where a rapid response to changes in temperature is required. Energy harvesting is also important in miniaturised electronic devices, including "systems on a chip", and power recovery using this method is useful for any off-grid electricity applications, including in space.

"The development of thermoelectric oxides offers an environmentally clean alternative to current materials that contain elements that are harmful, such as lead, bismuth or antimony, or those that are in limited supply, such as tellurium," added Professor Goff.

Explore further: Physicist addresses international forum on thermoelectric energy

More information: Suppression of thermal conductivity by rattling modes in thermoelectric sodium cobaltate, DOI: 10.1038/nmat3739

Related Stories

Scientists make nontoxic, bendable nanosheets

April 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 and alternative ...

Exotic alloys for potential energy applications

June 27, 2013

The search for thermoelectrics, exotic materials that convert heat directly into electricity, has received a boost from researchers at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo, who have found the ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals how nanochannels select potassium ions

August 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—One of the mysteries in biology is how cells can selectively diffuse potassium across a membrane. Biological systems rely on a delicate balance between these potassium and sodium ion concentrations in the surrounding ...

Another milestone in hybrid artificial photosynthesis

August 25, 2015

A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory developing a bioinorganic hybrid approach to artificial photosynthesis have achieved another milestone. Having generated ...

0 comments

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.