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Thermoelectric device enhances energy conversion by 10x

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:thermoelectric conversion? alternative energy? energy conversion?

NEC Corp., NEC TOKIN Corp. and Tohoku University have developed a thermoelectric technology called Seebeck effect, which have a conversion efficiency 10 times higher than the conventional method.

The new thermoelectric conversion technology aims to reduce greenhouse gases and save energy as it converts energy abandoned as waste back to electric power. Although conventional spin Seebeck thermoelectric devices have the advantage of low manufacturing costs and high versatility and durability, their energy conversion efficiency is inferior.

"We have improved the conversion efficiency of this spin Seebeck thermoelectric device by more than 10 times because of its newly developed material and device structure," says Soichi Tsumura, general manager of IoT Device Research Laboratories at NEC Corporation. "Furthermore, devices made of flexible material, such as resin, have been achieved using a manufacturing process that does not require high-temperature heat treatment."

"The conversion efficiency of this new spin thermoelectric device has been improved by almost one million times when compared to the earliest device, and has taken an important step towards practical use as a generator element. The achievement of practical use as a heat flux sensor is also in sight," says Tsumura.

SSE-ANE

Figure 1: Development of a low-cost, high-performance ferromagnetic alloy and its significant improvement in thermoelectric conversion efficiency. (Source: Tohoku University)

Conventionally, expensive platinum was used as the electrode material to extract electric power in a spin Seebeck thermoelectric device. This time, new cobalt alloys were developed to replace the platinum. As a result, the cost was significantly reduced. Furthermore, the combination of the thermoelectric effect termed the "Anomalous Nernst Effect," appearing due to the ferromagnetic properties added to the cobalt alloys and the spin Seebeck effect, have improved the thermoelectric conversion efficiency by more than 10 times.

The three institutions involved in developing the thermoelectric conversion technology are keen on pushing the research and development of the technology, aiming to generate electricity from large amounts of waste heat emitted by plants, data centres and vehicles.

These results were achieved as part of the "Saitoh Spin Quantum Rectification Project" led by Tohoku University Professor Eiji Saitoh. It is funded by the Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) programme of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

new deposition technology

Figure 2: Devices with bending resistance and low heat treatment temperature achieved by new deposition technology. (Source: Tohoku University)

New deposition technology fabricates a fine ferrite film for spin Seebeck thermoelectric devices at 90C, much lower than the 700C used with the conventional method. Owing to the decrease in heat treatment temperature, elements can be created on the surface of plastic film, etc., and flexible devices of various shapes are created.

Key features of this new technology are as follows:

1. Development of a low-cost, high-performance ferromagnetic alloy and significant improvement in thermoelectric conversion efficiency

Conventionally, expensive platinum was used as the electrode material to extract electric power in a spin Seebeck thermoelectric device. This time, new cobalt alloys were developed to replace the platinum. As a result, the cost was significantly reduced. Furthermore, the combination of the thermoelectric effect termed the "Anomalous Nernst Effect," appearing due to the ferromagnetic properties added to the cobalt alloys and the spin Seebeck effect, have improved the thermoelectric conversion efficiency by more than 10 times.

2. Devices with bending resistance and low heat treatment temperature achieved by new deposition technology.





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