Thermoelectrics

Thermoelectrics (Fig. 1) provide a pathway for converting heat directly into electricity or vice versa without moving parts. Traditional thermoelectric materials are expensive and rigid inorganic materials usually made of rare-earth elements. In sharp contrast, organic materials are cheap, carbon-based and solution-processable.

Most interestingly the flexibility of organic materials makes wearable thermoelectric devices for body heat recovery possible (Fig. 2), an emerging application of thermoelectrics. Compared to inorganic materials, the research on organic thermoelectric materials is still at a young stage. Our group aims at addressing the following fundamental challenges in this area:

  1. Study the transport processes through organic-inorganic materials. We have discovered that thermoelectric performance is enhanced with hybrid organic-inorganic materials (Fig. 3).
  2. Understand how the anisotropic nano- and micro-structures of organic materials influence the electronic structure and phonon transport in different directions.

Click here to access a list of our publications related to thermoelectrics.

Fig. 3: (left) Bulk, solution-processable hybrid organic-inorganic materials developed by our group create materials (center) with thermoelectric properties better than that of either component, similar the the effect seen in (right) single-molecule studies at gold junctions.

Fig. 3: (left) Bulk, solution-processable hybrid organic-inorganic materials developed by our group create materials (center) with thermoelectric properties better than that of either component, similar the the effect seen in (right) single-molecule studies at gold junctions.

Fig. 1: Schematic of a single thermoelectric module. Many modules, requiring both p and n-type materials, are required to make an effective thermoelectric device.

Fig. 1: Schematic of a single thermoelectric module. Many modules, requiring both p and n-type materials, are required to make an effective thermoelectric device.

Fig. 2: Flexible thermoelectric materials could be used to make wearable devices which generate energy from body heat.

Fig. 2: Flexible thermoelectric materials could be used to make wearable devices which generate energy from body heat.