Energy Harvesting with Soft Thermoelectric Conversion Devices
Three groups, including the Flexible Electronics Research Center of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tokyo, have developed a technology for printing thermoelectric conversion devices onto flexible substrates such as plastic films and papers.
The technology adds high flexibility to the devices by turning them into film devices, allowing their installation to be unrestricted by the shapes of the objects onto which they are installed. In addition, the printing technology enables cost reduction in the manufacturing process, as well as resource savings, say the developers.
To expand the use of thermoelectric conversion devices, which convert thermal energy into electrical power, it is necessary to enhance conversion efficiency, reduce costs and improve the convenience of the devices, say the developers, so that they can be installed on waste-heat generating objects of various shapes.
One of the researchers developed a technology to fabricate flexible thermoelectric conversion devices via a printing process.
He discovered that a printable composite material in which a carbon material is dispersed into a resin matrix at a nanometer-level has more than 1.5 times the power-generation capacity of conventional printable materials. He also found that printing the devices on a film substrate by using a solution of this material as an ink creates a thermoelectric conversion film device with excellent temperature-difference power generation. The developed thermoelectric conversion film device is expected to help disseminate energy harvesting, which uses waste heat from instruments and equipment, as well as body heat, as an energy source and converts the heat into electrical power. It should also contribute to the safe supply of electrical power.
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