Heat-Harvest: Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting
Thermoelectric (TE) materials provide us with a highly potential means for sustainable energy exploitation as they are capable of directly converting waste heat from various sources directly into electricity. Hence energy harvesting with TE generators is expected to have an important position among future sustainable energy technologies. At the same time there is yet definite need for fundamental scientific research in the field to bring the TE materials to the level needed for most of the real applications.
The TE materials and technologies have been little investigated in Finland, except now at Aalto University. Within the HEAT-HARVEST project we conducted frontier research for (1) understanding the TE materials from the fundamental materials chemistry point of view and attaining maximal TE performances for currently known and completely new materials. Moreover, (2) a fundamentally novel TE concept based on ions rather than electrons/holes was explored. Within the project TE materials were introduced for a wider community as a potential resource for sustainable energy production by (3) designing, constructing and optimizing a few model devices such as a such as a flexible hybrid-material based TE module integrated in textiles, and (4) identifying the most potential technical solutions of thermoelectrics in Finland.
For the success of the project, interdisciplinary approach was vitally important. Our project partners have deep expertise in tailoring new enhanced TE materials (Inorg/CHEM), in thermodynamics and electrochemistry (FyKe/CHEM), and in power systems (ELEC), i.e. subjects that play crucially important roles in the project. What finally made us truly unique in the world is the integral contribution of conceptual design (ARTS) to the project. Moreover, we have been extensively utilizing our highly relevant network of world-class collaborators.