California Researchers Transform Waste Heat to Electricity

Rashba spin-Seebeck effect

Image: University of California, Riverside

A team of scientists from University of California, Riverside (UCR) have successfully developed thermoelectric devices that can transform low-level waste heat into electricity.

The scientists state that the device could boost a solar PV system’s output by harnessing a phenomenon called the Rashba spin-Seebeck effect. The phenomenon reportedly would enable commercial devices to turn waste heat from cars, computers, and solar cells into electricity.

The device was developed from a super-thin two-layered sandwich of nickel-iron Permalloy blended with p-type silicon. An electrical voltage is said to be produced when heat is applied to the 25-metres thick Permalloy, and this is attributed to the phenomenon known as the spin-Seebeck effect. The phenomenon generates a spin current from the ferromagnetic substance and produces a voltage in the silicon.

The team reportedly measured a voltage of 100.3 microvolts, in the device that was made up of silicon layer fiver nanometres thickness. And, the technology could reportedly have a range of commercial applications, when scaled up and made more efficient, and this includes generating electricity from waste heat created in household appliances, computer chips, and solar panels.

UCR Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Sandeep Kumar reiterated that the photovoltaic solar panels could become quite warm. On incorporating thermoelectric generators into such panels, it could produce extra electricity from the waste heat. Kumar added that the thermoelectric generators could also be incorporated into automobiles. And, the engine temperatures could reach around a hundred degrees centigrade in comparison to an ambient temperature of twenty-five degrees. In such an application, it is reported that the electricity that is generated could power the electronics of cars and also provide cooling.

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