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March 24th, 2005
Power generation from low-energy thermal sources might become economical with more efficient thermoelectric materials. Nanostructures offer a new way to improve their performance.
Tammy Humphrey of the University of Wollongong in Australia and Heiner Linke of the University of Oregon calculate that thermoelectric nanomaterials could have values of the standard thermoelectric 'figure of merit' ZT – the materials-dependent measure of their performance at interconverting electrical power and temperature gradients – of around 10, which is twice the value often cited for economical uptake of the technology. Bulk materials currently being explored for thermoelectric applications typically have ZT values of less than 2.
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