National University of Singapore researchers have reported high-performance Tin Sulfide (SnS) thermoelectric crystals combine the desirable features of low-cost, earth-abundant materials and environmental friendliness.

For the first time, they discovered the interplay of triple electronic bands leading to the high performance of thermoelectric SnS crystals, which is promoted by Selenium alloying. Furthermore, Selenium alloying plays a second important role in lowering the thermal transport.

The research team of Professor Stephen J. Pennycook and Dr Haijun Wu from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Materials Science and Engineering collaborated with Professor Li-Dong Zhao from the School of Materials Science and Engineering in Beihang University, China, have published their results in a paper about high-performance low-cost thermoelectrics, selenium-doped tin sulphide (Se-SnS) crystals in the journal Science.

With more than 60 per cent of input energy being lost as waste heat, there is a compelling need for high performance thermoelectric materials that can directly and reversibly convert heat to electrical energy. Practical realization of thermoelectric materials is severely restricted by the thermoelectric materials’ disadvantages of high-cost, rare earth-scarcity, environmental-toxicity, etc, thus high-performance low-cost thermoelectrics are in high demand.

The NUS Engineering team proved the existence of Se substitutions in the SnS lattice by directly seeing, for the first time, the substitutional point defects through aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM).

That might be the briefest press release of a significant improvement that was published in Science. There is a paywall, but your humble writer has waited for more information without results. This is however, progress in an important field. As noted, 60 percent of our fuel and energy is simply lost as waste heat. That lost heat is the largest reserve of energy in the world economy and well worth every effort to claim it back.


1 Comment so far

  1. Matt Musson on October 23, 2019 9:48 AM

    If the conversion ratio is high enough, it seems that mirrors focusing solar energy could be used to directly generate electricity. And, using a phase change material that releases heat would allow for electricity even after the sun sets.

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