The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi researchers are developing thermoelectric materials which can efficiently convert heat into electricity and can be an alternative source of energy.

A research team led by Dr. Ajay Soni, Associate Professor (Physics), from the School of Basic Sciences has been working on certain materials which can convert heat into electricity.  

Telling about his research Dr Soni said, recently there has been considerable interest in development of technologies which can dynamically harvest energy from environment and convert it into electricity such as sun, heat and mechanical energy as sustainable sources of energy.

The research team believes while solar power has received a lot of attention other alternative sources, like heat generated through human activities in industry, power plants, home appliances and automobiles also look promising.

“About seventy percent heat generated in such applications is lost and released in environment leading to global warming, and tapping this source of energy can help in energy generation and environment protection”, he adds.

Explaining this research IIT researchers tell, “Thermoelectric materials work on the principle of Seebeck effect, in which electricity is generated due to temperature differences across the junction of two materials. A typical thermoelectric material must have the trifecta properties of high thermoelectric power and electrical conductivity, low thermal conductivity with a capability of maintaining a temperature gradient. This combination of properties is hard to come by and a few semiconducting materials must be tweaked further for a good thermoelectric efficiency.”

He said, “In western world, many automobile companies, including Volkswagen, VOLVO, Ford and BMW are developing thermoelectric waste heat recovery systems by which three to five percent improvement in fuel economy, besides other applications like powering consumer devices and electronics, aviation and space etc can also be harnessed.”  

This research project is being funded by  Department of Science and Technology – Science and Engineering Research Board (DST – SERB) and Department of Atomic Energy – Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences (DAE – BRNS), India.

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