Researchers Report New Understanding of Thermoelectric Materials

Zhifeng Ren, M. D. Anderson Chair Professor of Physics at the University of Houston, director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH and corresponding author on the paper, said they have developed a model to explain the previously unaddressed disparity in performance between the two types of formulations. They then applied the model to predict promising new materials to generate power using waste heat from power plants and other sources.

The researchers already knew thermoelectric efficiency depends on the performance of the material in both forms, known as “p-type” and “n-type” for carrying a positive and negative charge, respectively. But most materials either don’t exist in both formulations or one type is more efficient than the other.