Thermoelectric materials can also work in reverse to convert electricity into differences in temperature, allowing cooling without pipes, pumps or coolants.Since the 1950s, engineers have used a semiconductor alloy called bismuth antimony telluride in niche applications, such as solid state cooling for precision medical equipment. But although it is the best material around for the job, the alloy is far from efficient. The new efficiency boost could see thermoelectric materials used in many more areas.
The dramatic 40% boost is relatively simple to achieve. Grinding bismuth antimony telluride into fine particles and then pressing it back together again using heat transforms its thermoelectric properties, according to researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boston College, both Boston, US.
Sticking the nanoscale particles back together increased the alloy’s peak figure of merit, a term used to measure metals’ relative thermodynamic performance, by 40% from 1.0 to..."
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