U.S. researchers say they have created a material that can generate electricity from waste heat with greater efficiency than other technologies. Scientists at Northwestern University placed nanocrystals of rock salt into lead telluride to create a material with the potential to capture waste heat from factory equipment, vehicle exhaust, and other industrial processes and convert 14 percent of it into electricity.
While it is well known that semiconductors have this potential, the challenge has been finding the right material to make it efficient on an industrial scale, said Mercouri Kanatzidis, a chemistry professor and co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Chemistry. “We have found a recipe or system to make this material,” he said. The scientists say the process could significantly boost energy efficiency in industries that use heat to make products, such as the automotive, chemical, and glass industries.