Scientists at Northwestern University have developed a new lead-based compound that can convert 14 percent of waste heat into electricity. The discovery can be used to make devices more energy efficient.
The NU team, lead by Chemistry professor Mercouri Kanatzidis discovered that by using a special type of nano-inclusion, the scattering could actually be reduced. The trick was to use special crystals of rock salt (SrTe). Professor Kanatzidis sums up, "It has been known for 100 years that semiconductors have this property that can harness electricity. To make this an efficient process, all you need is the right material, and we have found a recipe or system to make this material."
Materials Science professor Vinayak Dravid also assisted in the study. He describes the results, stating, "We can put this material inside of an inexpensive device with a few electrical wires and attach it to something like a light bulb. The device can make the light bulb more efficient by taking the heat it generates and converting part of the heat, 10 to 15 percent, into a more useful energy like electricity."