On-chip energy harvesting

On-chip energy harvesting

Technology News |
By Wisse Hettinga

Researchers from Germany, Italy, and the UK have achieved a major advance in the development of materials suitable for on-chip energy harvesting

By composing an alloy made of silicon, germanium and tin, they were able to create a thermoelectric material, promising to transform the waste heat of computer processors back into electricity. With all elements coming from the 4th main group of the periodic table, these new semiconductor alloy can be easily integrated into the CMOS process of chip production. The research findings made it onto the cover of the renowned scientific journal ACS Applied Energy Materials.

A research collaboration between Forschungszentrum Jülich and IHP – Leibniz Institute for High Performance Microelectronics in Germany, together with the University of Pisa, the University of Bologna in Italy, and the University of Leeds in the UK, now reached a milestone in developing suitable materials for on-chip energy harvesting that are compatible with the CMOS process of chip production.

“Adding tin to germanium significantly reduces the material’s thermal conductivity while maintaining its electrical properties, an ideal combination for thermoelectric applications”, explains Dr. Dan Buca, leader of the research group at Forschungszentrum Jülich. The experimental confirmation of the low lattice thermal conductivity, published in ACS Applied Energy Materials, highlights the great potential of these GeSn alloys as thermoelectric materials. The idea behind this: By integrating these alloys into silicon-based computer chips, it is possible to utilise the waste heat generated during operation and convert it back into electrical energy. This on-chip energy harvesting could significantly reduce the need for external cooling and power, leading to more sustainable and efficient IT devices.

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