Thermoelectricity is the direct conversion of heat (or a temperature gradient) into electricity and vice versa through two related mechanisms, the Seebeck effect and the Peltier effect (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Schematic diagram for thermoelectricity
Thermoelectric devices are solid-state energy converters that typically consist of many pairs of n- and p-type semiconductors connected electrically in series and thermally in parallel as shown in Fig 2. They can be used as power generators by converting waste heat into electricity, or as heat pumps / refrigerators by converting electrical input into a temperature gradient. Having no moving parts, they have an essentially infinite lifetime, require no maintenance, and have a very high power density which makes them suitable for compact systems. Therefore, thermoelectric devices have potential to be applied to various applications where the existing technologies cannot.
Figure 2. Typical thermoelectric device consisting of p- and n-type semiconductor pairs.
As the energy conversion efficiency of thermoelectric devices largely depends on that of individual material used, research is needed to improve the efficiency of various thermoelectric materials, which requires multidisciplinary knowledge in thermal science, materials science, inorganic chemistry, and solid-state physics.
Our team is dedicated to develop efficient thermoelectric devices by exploring novel thermoelectric materials and new strategies to make the existing materials better. In addition to the material aspect, we are also interested in devising new device concepts such as highly efficient flexible thermoelectric devices as well as other forms of devices.