The finding is reported in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Thermoelectric materials generate an electrical current from the flow of heat from a warm area to a colder one. The new material is made from germanium-doped magnesium stannide. The researchers argue that the usual focus for thermoelectric materials – their efficiency – is no more important than their high power output.
The researchers say that, as the power factor of the new material is high, and the raw material cost is about $190 per kilogram, it will be commercially viable and they have formed a company called APower to commercialise it.
The material can be used with waste-heat applications and concentrated solar energy conversion at temperatures up to 300˚C, according to Zhifeng Ren, lead author professor of physics at the university.
Ren said applications would include use in a car exhaust system to convert heat into electricity to power the car’s electric system, boosting mileage, or in a cement plant, capturing waste heat from a smokestack to power the plant’s systems.
You can see previous Cosmos coverage of thermoelectric materials research here.