University of Notre Dame aerospace and mechanical engineers have developed a machine-learning assisted superfast new way to create high-performance, energy-saving thermoelectric devices.

Yanliang Zhang, associate professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Notre Dame, and collaborators Alexander Dowling and Tengfei Luo have developed the high-performance, energy-saving thermoelectric devices.

The paper reporting the milestone has been published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

Digital photos of silver-selenide films made by vacuum-assisted filtration technique (a) before, (b) after cold pressing at 25 MPa for 15 minutes. Scale bar is 1 cm. (c) Demonstrating the flexibility of the fabricated film before sintering. Image Credit: Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Lab at Notre Dame. For this and other images click the supplimenatry informarion link.

The novel process uses intense pulsed light to sinter thermoelectric material in less than a second (conventional sintering in thermal ovens can take hours). The team sped up this method of turning nanoparticle inks into flexible devices by using machine learning to determine the optimum conditions for the ultrafast but complex sintering process.

Flexible thermoelectric devices offer great opportunities for direct conversion of waste heat into electricity as well as solid-state refrigeration, Zhang said. They have additional benefits as power sources and cooling devices – they don’t emit greenhouse gases, and they are durable and quiet since they don’t have moving parts.

Despite their potential broad impact in energy and environmental sustainability, thermoelectric devices have not achieved large-scale application because of the lack of a method for fast and cost-effective automated manufacturing. Machine-learning-assisted ultrafast flash sintering now will make it possible to produce high-performance, eco-friendly devices much faster and at far lower cost.

Zhang offered, “The results can be applied to powering everything from wearable personal devices, to sensors and electronics, to industry Internet of Things. The successful integration of photonic flash processing and machine learning can be generalized to highly scalable and low-cost manufacturing of a broad range of energy and electronic materials.”

Zhang is principal investigator of the Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Lab at Notre Dame. Dowling, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Luo, the Dorini Family Professor for Energy Studies – both experts in machine learning – contributed to this research, along with doctoral student Mortaza Saeidi-Javash (now assistant professor at California State Long Beach), doctoral student Ke Wang and postdoctoral associate Minxiang Zeng (now assistant professor at Texas Tech University).


The hard data did make the abstract! “The films also show excellent flexibility with 92% retention of the power factor (PF) after 103 bending cycles with a 5 mm bending radius. In addition, a wearable thermoelectric generator based on the flash-sintered films generates a very competitive power density of 0.5 mW cm−2 at a temperature difference of 10 K.”

That’s pretty good for a technology that hasn’t been given a ton of research money. Flexible thermoelectric generation is really a pretty new field. Is it commercial? We’ll have to see if / when someone tries it. When it is tried lets hope its a resounding success and drives much more investment and progress,



Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind