What if there was a way to increase profit margins and the energy efficiency of your plant by more than five percent — without disturbing your process? A technology has developed that uses silicon to convert waste heat into electricity. It uses solid-state, thermoelectric units that do not have any moving parts. The thermoelectric units are adaptable for use in most process equipment from small kilns to large steel reheat furnaces.
Although it may sound too good to be true, thermoelectric waste heat recovery exploits a well-known thermoelectric effect. Scientists have known for nearly 200 years that a simple temperature gradient can create voltage across some materials. German physicist Thomas Seebeck first reported this “thermoelectric effect” in 1821. In the 1950s, scientists began to explore the properties and nuances of thermoelectrics, particularly in experiments with compounds like bismuth telluride. Thermoelectric modules designed as semiconductor-based components found some use in some electronics cooling applications. Thermoelectric materials are semiconductors that, when placed in a temperature gradient, generate electricity in the solid state.