Thermoelectric materials are common, but they’re not used as often as one would expect. This is because these materials have either been inefficient, expensive, or both. Several groups of researchers have been looking to correct this, and solve the mysteries that have been surrounding these compounds with a goal of bringing them to the world.
Mildred S. Dresselhaus is one of those looking to change the face of thermoelectric compounds. Working with her team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology she’s looking to create more efficient materials by manufacturing tiny particles or wires into them to disrupt the flow of head. These particles and wires would make the materials that are already great conductors much more competent at dispersing heat.
Professor Peidong Yang’s team at the University of California at Berkely is searching for entirely new materials. While silicon isn’t a great thermoelectric material, once you look at it in nanoscale, things change. Silicon nanowires have been shown to be one hundred times more efficient at conserving energy than bulk silicon.
Where things really start to get interesting are at the University of Århus, Risø-DTU (say that three times fast) and the University of Copenhagen where they’ve unlocked a secret of certain thermoelectric compounds which might potentially help in developing more efficient materials.
There are several other teams working on pushing the technology of thermoelectric based compounds, and they’re looking to implement them in a multitude of places, including your PC.