Thermoelectric materials are used for both energy harvesting and sensing. Energy harvesting is the primary use, with research pivoting from relatively unsuccessful attempts to set records for efficiency. Attempts to make high power versions for electrical engineering at over 10kW are largely abandoned. There is theory showing that thermoelectrics can never rival the efficiency of electrodynamics and photovoltaics.
Nonetheless, a newer approach of serving low power electronics by area more than efficiency is promising. Wearables are a particular focus as with the ThermoTex research program completed this year at the Chalmers Technical University in Sweden. It now enters a new stage under a European Commission Horizon program as it reveals non-toxic dopants improving the performance of flexible polymer thermoelectrics. Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany progress new wearable energy harvesting platforms including integration of solar with thermoelectrics.
NEC in Japan reports that recently, spin-driven thermoelectric effect (STE) has garnered much attention as a promising path towards low cost and versatile thermoelectric technology with easily scalable manufacturing. Progress is hindered by lack of understanding of the fundamental physics and materials properties responsible. In such a nascent scientific field, NEC data-driven approaches relying on statistics and machine learning, instead of more traditional modelling methods, can reveal the full potential for devices.
Raghu Das, CEO of analysts IDTechEx says, "With the newer Internet of Things nodes, less power is needed and extra will often be paid for fit-and-forget with very long life and thermoelectrics admirably provide just that, integrating with other monolithic harvesters as needed. This year we once again see more interest in our thermoelectric report than our reports on triboelectrics or piezoelectric harvesting for example. Spray-on thermoelectrics for smoke stacks now looks good though we still need convincing about thermoelectric roads."
The IDTechEx report on the topic, "Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting and Sensing 2020-2030", appraises all the new advances. For more information on this report, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/Thermo or for the full portfolio of research available from IDTechEx please visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research.