Device to convert wasted heat into electricity

1 min read

A device being developed by Washington State University physicists could turn the heat generated by an array of electronics into a usable fuel source.

According to the scientists, the device is a multicomponent, multilayered composite van der Waals Schottky diode. They claim it converts heat into electricity up to three times more efficiently than silicon and that it could eventually provide an extra source of power for applications ranging from smart phones to automobiles.

"The ability of our diode to convert heat into electricity is very large compared to other bulk materials currently used in electronics," said associate professor Yi Gu.

"In the future, one layer could be attached to something hot like a car exhaust or a computer motor and another to a surface at room temperature. The diode would then use the heat differential between the two surfaces to create an electric current that could be stored in a battery and used when needed."

Unlike conventional Schottky diodes, the new diode is made from a multilayer of microscopic, crystalline indium selenide. The researchers used a heating process to modify one layer of the indium selenide to act as a metal and another layer to act as a semiconductor.

The diode is said to have no impurities or defects at the interface where the metal and semiconductor materials are joined together, which according to the scientists enables electricity to travel through the multilayered device with almost 100% efficiency.

"When you attach a metal to a semiconductor material like silicon to form a Schottky diode, there are always some defects that form at the interface," said researcher McCluskey.

"These imperfections trap electrons, impeding the flow of electricity. This diode is unique in that its surface does not appear to have any of these defects."