Alphabet Energy Announces Low-Cost Thermoelectrics
Alphabet Energy has entered an exclusive commercialization agreement with Michigan State University (MSU) for the use of the thermoelectric material tetrahedrite in industrial and other thermoelectric systems.
Thermoelectric materials convert any waste heat source into electricity. While they have been studied for decades, only a few have reached commercial applications because of their low efficiency, high cost and use of rare elements.
Tetrahedrites are a family of compounds of commonly occurring elements that combine low thermal conductivity with good electronic properties. They can be synthesized in the lab, or the natural mineral itself can be used as a source of thermoelectric material, according to MSU, adding that this is the first step in creating a low-cost, widespread technology for converting heat to electricity.
Alphabet has also been issued two patents for the scalable manufacturing of silicon nanowire-based thermoelectrics. A single nanowire is the width of 1/1000 of a human hair, so dozens of kilograms of materials are needed for a large-scale industrial thermoelectric generator. Alphabet’s materials inventions are the first that allow the bulk incorporation of nanowires into macroscopic materials, paving the way for nanowire-based thermoelectric devices.
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