News Release 

Fine-tuning thermoelectric materials for cheaper renewable energy

Queen Mary University of London

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have developed new thermoelectric materials, which could provide a low-cost option for converting heat energy into electricity.

Materials known as halide perovskites have been proposed as affordable alternatives to existing thermoelectric materials, however so far research into their suitability for thermoelectric applications has been limited.

In this study, published in Nature Communications, scientists conducted a series of experiments on thin films of the halide perovskite, caesium tin iodide, to test its ability to create electrical current from heat. The researchers found they were able to improve the materials' thermoelectric properties through a combination of methods, which involved partial oxidation and the introduction of additional elements into the material.

Dr Oliver Fenwick, lead Royal Society University Research Fellow and Lecturer in Materials Science at Queen Mary University of London, said: "For many years halide perovskites have been suggested as promising thermoelectric materials. But whilst simulations have suggested good thermoelectric properties real experimental data hasn't met these expectations.

"In this study, we successfully used 'doping' techniques, where we intentionally introduce impurities into the material, to tweak and improve the thermoelectric properties of caesium tin iodide, opening up options for its use in thermoelectric applications."

Thermoelectric materials use temperature differences to generate electrical energy. They have been suggested as a promising sustainable approach to both energy production and recycling, as they can be used to convert waste heat into useful electricity. However, current widely-used thermoelectric materials are costly to produce and process, which has limited the uptake of this greener technology.

Dr Fenwick, said: "With the heightened global awareness of climate change and realisation that a number of renewable energy solutions will be needed to meet our energy demands, thermoelectric generators are now at the centre stage in today's "green technology" debate.

"The thermoelectric materials we currently have are expensive, and some even contain toxic components. One of the largest growth areas for thermoelectric technology is for domestic, commercial or wearable applications, so there's a need to find cheaper, non-toxic materials that can also operate well at low temperatures, for these applications to be fully realised. Our research suggests the halide perovskites could, with some fine-tuning, fill this void."

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Notes to editors

  • Research paper: 'Enhanced control of self-doping in halide perovskites for improved thermoelectric performance'.Tianjun Liu, Xiaoming Zhao, Jianwei Li, Zilu Liu, Fabiola Liscio, Silvia Milita, Bob C. Schroeder & Oliver Fenwick. Nature Communications.
  • DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13773-3
  • This work was done in collaboration with researchers from University College London and CNR Bologna, Italy.

For a copy of the paper, please contact:

Sophie McLachlan
Faculty Communications Manager (Science & Engineering)
Queen Mary University of London
sophie.mclachlan@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7882 3787

About Queen Mary

Queen Mary University of London is a research-intensive university that connects minds worldwide. A member of the prestigious Russell Group, we work across the humanities and social sciences, medicine and dentistry, and science and engineering, with inspirational teaching directly informed by our world-leading research. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework we were ranked 5th in the country for the proportion of research outputs that were world-leading or internationally excellent. We have over 25,000 students and offer more than 240 degree programmes. Our reputation for excellent teaching was rewarded with silver in the most recent Teaching Excellence Framework. Queen Mary has a proud and distinctive history built on four historic institutions stretching back to 1785 and beyond. Common to each of these institutions - the London Hospital Medical College, St Bartholomew's Medical College, Westfield College and Queen Mary College - was the vision to provide hope and opportunity for the less privileged or otherwise under-represented. Today, Queen Mary University of London remains true to that belief in opening the doors of opportunity for anyone with the potential to succeed and helping to build a future we can all be proud of.

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