Researchers develop high-performance thermoelectric module using rare mineral

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : April 20, 2018, 11:01 | Updated : April 20, 2018, 11:01

[Courtesy of the Korea Energy Research Institute]

SEOUL --  South Korean researchers have developed a thermoelectric module which is more energy efficient than its predecessors, using skutterudite, a rare cobalt arsenide mineral containing cobalt, iron and nickel. Thermoelectric modules can retrieve waste heat and convert it to electricity.

A thermoelectric module, also known as Peltier cooler, is a semiconductor-based electronic component which is basically a small heat pump and moves heat from one side of a device to another. Because of its ability to generate electricity, thermoelectricity technology is widely researched in the fields of automobiles, space engineering and heat generating, but materials are expensive and electric generation is not very efficient.

The state-run Korea Institute of Energy Research Institute said it has developed a new high-power-density skutterudite-based thermoelectric module which has ultralow contact resistivity. It said the power-density level of its new module is the world's highest with 2.1 Watts per cubic centimeter, which is about 20 percent more efficient in power generation than previously developed modules.

"Not only we have maximized the power output of the new thermoelectric module but also we have opened the door for new possibilities of the application of the iron-nickel alloy," said Park Sang-hyun, who headed the research team.

Layers of iron-nickel (Fe-Ni) alloy were used to secure skutterudite materials and metallic electrodes instead of using titanium, which is more expensive and more resistant to electricity, allowing for a minimal loss of energy in the energy transferring process.

The research work was posted in the March issue of the Applied Energy Materials, an energy technology journal published by the American Chemical Society.
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