Approximately 90% of the world’s power is generated by heat engines that use fossil fuel combustion as a heat source and typically operate at 30–40% efficiency, such that roughly 15 terawatts of heat is lost to the environment. A thermoelectric module therefore is a very attractive device that could potentially convert this waste heat into electricity. However, for a thermoelectric device to act as an efficient power generator is required to have a high efficiency.
Over the past few decades there is a search for highly efficient thermoelectric materials that could play an important role in a global sustainable energy solution. The thermoelectric conversion efficiency is characterized by a temperature dependent quantity ZT = S2 ø T/k, where S is the Seebeck coefficient, ø is the electrical conductivity, k is the total thermal conductivity, T is the absolute temperature, and the product (S2ø) is the power factor (PF). A large number of potential applications require enhancing ZT over a wide range of temperatures, which is achieved by having high power factor and low thermal conductivity values.
Nano-interconnection team at Tyndall National Institute is actively involved in research and optimization of novel thermoelectric materials and devices. In this activity, the team is actively working to develop efficient thermoelectric materials by electrodeposition technique on Silicon for the fabrication of thermoelectric power generator (TEG) device.
The team has developed p and n-type materials on Si as shown in Fig. (a) and (b) that have Seebeck coefficients comparable to the state of the art electrodeposited bismuth telluride based materials and now working on to increase the power factor and reduce the thermal conductivity to achieve high ZT. The goal is to produce efficient TEG devices device using CMOS compatible process (Fig. (c) and (d)) with an aim to bridge the gap between research and industrial production of efficient TEG devices.
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