Silicon Could Convert Waste Heat Into Power

New nanowires add to chip tech's bag of tricks
By Lucas Laursen,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2008 11:41 AM CST
Peidong Yang led the research group that found silicon could be used as a thermoelectric material.   (University of California at Berkeley)
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(Newser) – Silicon could turn heat into electricity for cheaper than current technologies based on other materials, reports Technology Review. Researchers made nanowires out of silicon so that it would conduct electricity, but not heat. Normal silicon conducts both very well. The specially-made wires, however, convert heat applied at one end to electricity at the other end.

Existing thermoelectric materials like bismuth telluride aren’t efficient enough to make it worth converting the heat from a car’s engine, for instance, into electricity, or for large-scale refrigeration. Silicon’s worldwide infrastructure makes it a good candidate. The technology will take time to mature from the lab to production lines, though, warns one electrical engineer.