Breakthrough in the utilization of waste heat

Researchers from the Northwestern University found a new material that is able to convert waste heat into electricity with an unprecedented efficiency. The scientists have published their findings in Nature.

Exhausts from cars, heavy industry or marine engines produce a lot of excess heat. In theory, this so-called waste heat can be converted into electricity, while now that energy is often lost. Materials which can be used to convert waste heat into electricity are currently not very efficient.

These new findings could mean a major breakthrough in converting waste heat into electricity. The newly developed material was able to convert 15 to 20 percent of the waste heat into electricity.

The material is based on a previously used semiconductor and lead telluride in which nanocrystals were processed. The nanocrystals reduce the risk that electrons fall out of their trajectory and increase the amount of heat the new material can convert into electricity.

With the growth of the worldwide population and increase in energy consumption, future generations can get a serious energy problem. According to the researchers, the newly developed material may actually be part of the solution of this future energy problem.