New materials give thermoelectric energy a boost

New materials give thermoelectric energy a boost

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

The aim of the European Integral project is the development of sustainable and cost-effective second generation thermoelectric materials that convert thermal losses directly into electricity. The materials are applicable in the transport industry and in energy-intensive industries (metallurgy, glass production), which produce large energy losses.

The first-generation thermoelectric materials have not been very successful because they contain rare or toxic elements. In recent years, researchers have developed second generation materials. As promising, the researchers primarily designate two groups of materials: the silicides and the so-called Heusler alloys. Silicides are compounds of silicon and another metal such as germanium, magnesium, manganese or tin, which are used as semiconductors owing to their good conductivity. Heusler alloys are conductive because they contain metals with ferromagnetic properties.

Due to the high and sustainable availability of these minerals for the manufacture of such semiconductors, prices have fallen, but the efficiency of the conversion has unfortunately not been improved. For this reason, this project brings together experts (researchers and manufacturers as well as industrial users) against the backdrop of industrial production. In three pilot production lines in Europe – Poudr’Innov 2.0 in Genoble (France), Isabellenhütte in Dillenburg (Germany), RGS, Broek op Langedeijk in the Netherlands -, attempts are being made to improve the industrial process with technology transfer from the laboratories. Under the coordination of the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies (CEA) alternative, 12 partners from eight European countries are involved in the Prohect, including Valeo Systemes Thermiques, Ricardo, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and Fundacion Cidetec. The budget of the project is 8.5 million euros, of which the European Commission contributes 7 million.

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