Scientists at the University of Minnesota have created a new alloy of nickel, cobalt, manganese and tin that can convert heat directly into electricity. The Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 alloy can be either non-magnetic and highly magnetic, depending on its temperature.
In this case, the new alloy — Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 — undergoes a reversible phase transformation, in which one type of solid turns into another type of solid when the temperature changes, according to a news release from the University of Minnesota. Specifically, the alloy goes from being non-magnetic to highly magnetized. The temperature only needs to be raised a small amount for this to happen.
When the warmed alloy is placed near a permanent magnet, like a rare-earth magnet, the alloy’s magnetic force increases suddenly and dramatically. This produces a current in a surrounding coil, according to the researchers, led by aerospace engineering professor Richard James. Watch a piece of the alloy leap over to a permanent magnet in the video clip below.