Hayward, California (PRWEB) July 07, 2014
Alphabet Energy today announced two new developments in the advancement of thermoelectric materials, further signifying its leadership in the race to commercialize the first large-scale thermoelectric generators for waste-heat recovery. Alphabet has entered an exclusive commercialization agreement with Michigan State University (MSU) for the breakthrough thermoelectric material tetrahedrite, for use in industrial and other thermoelectric systems. The announcement was made at the 2014 International Conference of Thermoelectrics in Nashville, Tenn.
Thermoelectric materials convert any waste heat source into electricity. While they have been studied for decades, only a few have reached commercial applications because of their low efficiency, high cost, and use of rare elements.
“In our search for efficient, abundant, and nontoxic thermoelectric materials, we were led to the tetrahedrites, a family of compounds of commonly occurring elements, by theoretical calculations of their properties," said Don Morelli, a professor of materials science at MSU. "The fact that they are naturally-occurring minerals is an added bonus – one can either synthesize them in the lab or use the natural mineral itself as a source thermoelectric material. The compounds are especially interesting because they combine very low thermal conductivity with unusually good electronic properties."
Alphabet’s thermoelectrics materials team, comprised of several leading industry experts, quickly recognized the value of tetrahedrite in complementing its existing silicon-based technology innovations. Morelli, who led the research that was published in the journal, Advanced Energy Materials, said the process is only the first step in creating a low-cost, widespread technology for converting heat to electricity. "We are excited to work with Alphabet Energy because they have the resources, knowledge, and experience to take these materials from the laboratory to the marketplace."
Alphabet’s continued advances with highly efficient silicon nanowire-based thermoelectrics also reached key milestones recently with the issuance of two patents for the scalable manufacturing of these nanomaterials to use as thermoelectrics. A single nanowire is the width of 1/1000 of a human hair, but dozens of kilograms of materials are needed for a large-scale industrial thermoelectric generator. Alphabet’s materials inventions are the first that allow the bulk incorporation of nanowires into macroscopic materials, paving the way for nanowire-based thermoelectric devices.
“These new materials play a key role in our forthcoming products,” said Alphabet Founder and CEO, Matthew L. Scullin. “Our goal at Alphabet is to continually deliver value to our customers by identifying and inventing the best thermoelectric materials for waste-heat recovery that can improve efficiency while reducing costs.”
For more information about how Thermoelectrics work and Alphabet Energy’s advances, visit http://www.alphabetenergy.com.