SUNGKYUNKWAN UNIVERSITY: Prof. Jeong Min Baik’s Research Team Suggest a New Paradigm of Study on Thermoelectric Energy-harvesting

Prof. Baik’s research team and Prof. Son’s research team developed a new technique to increase the output voltage of a thermoelectric generator that does not involve material modification.

Thermoelectric energy-harvesting is a technology that produces useful energy by utilizing temperature differences at both ends of the material when heat is applied from the outside. It has attracted a great deal of research interest due to its simplicity, minimal maintenance requirements, low cost, and reliability. It provides a good solution for sustainable energy generation from ambient heat sources.

So far, various types of TE materials, including Bi2Te3, SnTe, PbTe, SnSe, etc., have been developed, and most research has been devoted to enhancing the materials’ ZT values using various methods such as nanostructuring, band structure engineering, etc. However, despite recent enhancements in efficiency, major issues with TE power generation technology remain, such as ultralow output voltages and consequent low-energy conversion efficiency, which are rooted in the intrinsic properties of TE materials.

As a solution to these challenges, they created negative charges on the dielectric surface on the low temperature which caused the electric potential difference across the two electrodes to increase and achieved the highest output voltage. In addition, the team successfully demonstrated that the wind increased the output voltage without a significant decrease in wind speed through the pinwheel.

Prof. Baik said “This research is a new method of energy convergence research that can present a new direction to overcome the limitations of thermoelectric energy-harvesting.”

The research team has already applied for two related patents and is developing technologies that reach commercialization through study on non-contact thermoelectric energy-harvesting.

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