Scientists from across the planet seem to have come together to unravel the mysteries behind the thermoelectric conundrum that they have been facing since long. Researchers from Chinese Academy of Science’s Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Caltech and University of Michigan seem to have come closer in understanding a thermoelectric substance that could alter the way we look at efficiency of heat engines and revamp the future of both electric cars and solar power. Those of course are just a few of the riches that potentially lay within the Copper Selenium material under the spotlight.
This material with its unique crystal lattice structure has a thermoelectric figure of merit of 1.5 at a temperature of 727 Centigrade. That is a value that tips the scales on the higher end of the spectrum in a significant fashion. In simpler terms, this material is more conducive to thermo electric generation than any other on the planet. The science of thermoelectricity studies the phenomenon of a substance that produces power when both its ends are subjected to a considerable temperature difference. The greater the temperature difference, greater will be the electricity produces.
Of course, this also depends on the substance that is being used. While traditionally many metals have been used as thermoelectric materials, they are not always the most efficient option. Since a good thermoelectric material must conduct electricity pretty well and act as a heat insulator, one needs to find the right balance between both. The latest research shows that the Copper Selenium material acts like a solid in terms of electric conduction, but as a liquid when it comes to heat transfer.
This makes it an ideal thermoelectric material and if this is utilized in future heating systems, then both solar power and electric cars would get a huge efficiency facelift along with many other green energy sources.