The project is looking into using oxide materials (known from fuel cells) as the thermoelectric elements and includes the following three major parts:
- Develop thermoelectric oxide materials of n- and p-type;
- Integrate the various components in a module that can convert heat into electricity; and
- Incorporate the module into a thermoelectric converter system.
Thermoelectric material must have high thermoelectric power, be stable at high temperatures and consist of non-toxic and inexpensive materials that can be easily shaped.
Thermoelectric materials work by exploiting the difference of temperature on each side of a semiconductor material. Electrons move from the hot side to the cold and thus transform heat into electricity.
"There are quite obvious benefits of this technology, but until now it has not been effective enough for industry to be involved. Some of the technological challenges are materials, processes and integration into existing systems," says the project's coordinator Nini Pryds from the Fuel Cells and Solid State Chemistry Division "We hope that with this project we can get closer to brining this technology to the market that ultimately may also help to reduce CO2 emissions significantly."
Risø DTU says the technology can be used in many places; for example, it could be mounted on a car's exhaust pipe. When the material on one side comes into contact with the hot exhaust, it will cause increased thermal motion in the electrons, making them move from the hot to the cold side – generating electricity.
Project partners are Risø DTU, Aalborg University, Aarhus University, Kyushuy University of Japan and Caltech from the USA. There are also five industry partners.