Silicon Nanowires For Efficient Thermoelectric Systems

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Researchers develop silicon nanowires that convert heart gradients into electricity efficiently.

Every electronic component generates some amount of heat. However, currently, the devices are getting denser and thus, the problem of heat dissipation is getting severe. Other than heat generated in electronic devices, industries such as the glass, cement, power, and steel sectors expel a huge amount of high-temperature waste heat. Utilizing this heat to generate electricity can help achieve carbon neutrality.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed silicon nanowires to convert heat gradient into electricity. “Using an abundant and inexpensive material like silicon to develop thermoelectric generators will increase market penetration while helping industries minimize energy losses,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Vi Rapp.

Researchers developed a technology that uses wafer-scale arrays of porous silicon nanowires with ultra-thin silicon crystallite that, according to the researchers, allows for an 18 times greater efficiency than other high-temperature or bulk silicon thermoelectric technologies. The work is described in the journal Nature Communications.

“High temperatures degrade materials,” said Ravi Prasher, the project lead and a scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Energy Technologies Area. “So we looked at silicon, which is abundant and stable, as well as cheap and reliable. Since bulk silicon does not have good thermoelectric properties, we use silicon to create nanowires—then the physics changes.”

The researchers are looking for scaling up the system, producing nanowires to test in actual devices.


 

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