They are calling it the Thermoelectric Paint which is more of an upgrade to the photovoltaic paint. That isn’t the interesting part, what’s interesting is the possibilities of these newly developed paint. After the major breakthrough that was the photovoltaic paint which converts captures solar energy and converts to electricity, Researchers have now found a way to create a paint that converts heat to energy.
The thermoelectric paint, which captures the waste heat from hot painted surfaces and converts it into electrical energy might just be a game changer.
Jae Sung Son, a co-author of the study and researcher at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), told Phys.org said this about the invention.
“I expect that the thermoelectric painting technique can be applied to waste heat recovery from large-scale heat source surfaces, such as buildings, cars, and ship vessels,”
“For example, the temperature of a building’s roof and walls increases to more than 50 °C in the summer,” he said. “If we apply thermoelectric paint on the walls, we can convert huge amounts of waste heat into electrical energy.”
The technique involves using flat thermoelectric materials & rigid chips. The specially-formulated inorganic thermoelectric paint was created using Bi2Te3 (bismuth telluride) and Sb2Te3 (antimony telluride) particles to create two types of semiconducting material. To test the resultant mixture, the researchers applied alternate p-type (positive) and n-type (negative) layers of the thermoelectric semiconductor paint on a metal dome, generating an average power output of 4 mW per square centimeter.
These devices are then attached to irregular-shaped objects that emit waste heat, such as engines, power plants, and refrigerators. However, the incomplete contact between these curved surfaces and the flat thermoelectric generators results in inevitable heat loss, decreasing the overall efficiency.
One of the most interesting things about this piece of technology is where it originates from. In recent years many inventions including the world’s largest solar farm earlier in the year. Overall this year has been key in the global power scene with Elon Musk dominating the headlines for his breakthrough in his power pack project.
The goal as of late is to transform all other forms of energy into reliable and sustainable power and it interesting to see if these innovations can scale up and be translated to a continent like Africa which is the major concern as regard electricity demand. often times arguments are lost on whether or not the people who need this power can afford it, however, the major question is if these alternative energy solutions can be replicated where it is needed the most.
For now, though we can marvel at the astonishing work that some bright minds have done. On the local scene, however, Unilag students are making strides of their own, recently announcing plans for sustainable off grid power supply system.