Episode 4: Turning Heat into Electricity
Play • 58 min

In this episode we talk about thermoelectrics, which are materials that can convert heat into electricity or vice versa. Since their inception almost 200 years ago there have been major advances in thermoelectric efficiency and they have found their way into some amazing applications such as NASA’s deep space probes or the Mars rover Curiosity.

For the latter half of the 20th century, thermoelectric materials research was relatively stagnant with little improvement in materials. However, in the last two decades there has been a resurgence of interest in these materials and efficiencies have doubled. For this episode we talk about these recent advances with Paul Slusser who founded Power Practical, a company that commercialized a camping stove with a built-in thermoelectric generator. We describe some of the techniques that have been employed to create this efficiency gains and ask whether or not these materials are likely to make it out of the laboratory and into the market.

Referenced Articles:

  • Northwestern Thermoelectrics Research Group [LINK]
  • New and Old Concepts in Thermoelectric Materials [LINK]
  • The panoscopic approach to high performance thermoelectrics [LINK]
  • Complex thermoelectric materials [LINK]

Thanks to Kolobyte and Alphabot for letting us use their music in the show!

If you have questions or feedback please send us emails at materialism.podcast@gmail.com or connect with us on social media: Instagram, Twitter.

Materialism Team: Taylor Sparks (co-host, co-creator), Andrew Falkowski (co-host, co-creator), Jared Duffy production, marketing, and editing), Ramsey Issa (editing assistance).

Keywords: thermoelectric ceramics energy thermal heat

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