Thermoelectric generation

Thermoelectric (TE) materials or devices are those that convert energy from heat into an electrical potential when a temperature gradient is induced between the two ends of a material.

As heat is by-product in many modern scenarios, the range of application to generate additional TE energy is vast. This includes industries such as: automotive, textile (i.e. wearable electronics), aerospace, space and power generation. However, current TE devices are composed of semiconductor materials which tend to be toxic, inorganic and expensive to manufacture.

In our current project, carbon nanotubes (CNT) are shown to be an effective alternative TE material with properties that include mechanical flexibility, low manufacturing cost and non-toxicity. A common technique used to functionalize CNTs while doping to exhibit n-type and p-type semiconducting properties, is typically achieved by introducing chemical compounds such as Polyethylenimine (PEI).

A high figure of merit (ZT) for TE devices (i.e. TE efficiency rating) requires a high Seebeck coefficient, high electrical conductivity and a low thermal conductivity. Here in the ATI we measure these parameters within a custom made thermoelectric analysis device, which features a vacuum controlled chamber, with a remotely controlled heating element and active cooling system, providing the necessary high temperature gradients. This set-up allows us to explore thermal conductivity and thermoelectric properties of next generation flexible thin film materials, such as CNTs and other carbon based materials.

Featured paper

Photoluminescence Quenching in Carbon Nanotube-Polymer/Fullerene Films: Carbon Nanotubes as Exciton Dissociation Centres in Organic Photovoltaics
N. Aamina Nismy, K. D. G. Imalka Jayawardena, A. A. Damitha T. Adikaari and S. Ravi P. Silva.

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