Thermoelectrics

From history, a window to the future

Davide Beretta, Neophytos Neophytou, James M. Hodges, Mercouri G Kanatzidis, Dario Narducci, Marisol Martin-Gonzalez, Matt Beekman, Benjamin Balke, Giacomo Cerretti, Wolfgang Tremel, Alexandra Zevalkink, Anna I. Hofmann, Christian Müller, Bernhard Dörling, Mariano Campoy-Quiles, Mario Caironi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Thermoelectricity offers a sustainable path to recover and convert waste heat into readily available electric energy, and has been studied for more than two centuries. From the controversy between Galvani and Volta on the Animal Electricity, dating back to the end of the XVIII century and anticipating Seebeck's observations, the understanding of the physical mechanisms evolved along with the development of the technology. In the XIX century Ørsted clarified some of the earliest observations of the thermoelectric phenomenon and proposed the first thermoelectric pile, while it was only after the studies on thermodynamics by Thomson, and Rayleigh's suggestion to exploit the Seebeck effect for power generation, that a diverse set of thermoelectric generators was developed. From such pioneering endeavors, technology evolved from massive, and sometimes unreliable, thermopiles to very reliable devices for sophisticated niche applications in the XX century, when Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators for space missions and nuclear batteries for cardiac pacemakers were introduced. While some of the materials adopted to realize the first thermoelectric generators are still investigated nowadays, novel concepts and improved understanding of materials growth, processing, and characterization developed during the last 30 years have provided new avenues for the enhancement of the thermoelectric conversion efficiency, for example through nanostructuration, and favored the development of new classes of thermoelectric materials. With increasing demand for sustainable energy conversion technologies, the latter aspect has become crucial for developing thermoelectrics based on abundant and non-toxic materials, which can be processed at economically viable scales, tailored for different ranges of temperature. This includes high temperature applications where a substantial amount of waste energy can be retrieved, as well as room temperature applications where small and local temperature differences offer the possibility of energy scavenging, as in micro harvesters meant for distributed electronics such as sensor networks. While large scale applications have yet to make it to the market, the richness of available and emerging thermoelectric technologies presents a scenario where thermoelectrics is poised to contribute to a future of sustainable future energy harvesting and management. This work reviews the broad field of thermoelectrics. Progress in thermoelectrics and milestones that led to the current state-of-the-art are presented by adopting an historical footprint. The review begins with an historical excursus on the major steps in the history of thermoelectrics, from the very early discovery to present technology. A panel on the theory of thermoelectric transport in the solid state reviews the transport theory in complex crystal structures and nanostructured materials. Then, the most promising thermoelectric material classes are discussed one by one in dedicated sections and subsections, carefully highlighting the technological solutions on materials growth that have represented a turning point in the research on thermoelectrics. Finally, perspectives and the future of the technology are discussed in the framework of sustainability and environmental compatibility.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMaterials Science and Engineering R: Reports
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

Fingerprint

Nuclear batteries
Seebeck effect
Thermoelectricity
Thermopiles
Pacemakers
Harvesters
High temperature applications
Energy harvesting
Waste heat
Scavenging
Energy management
Energy conversion
Nanostructured materials
Radioisotopes
Temperature
Conversion efficiency
Sensor networks
Piles
Power generation
Sustainable development

Keywords

  • Complex materials
  • Electrical conductivity
  • History
  • Materials
  • Nanostructure
  • Peltier
  • Power factor
  • Seebeck
  • Theory
  • Thermal conductivity
  • Thermoelectrics
  • Transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering

Cite this

Beretta, D., Neophytou, N., Hodges, J. M., Kanatzidis, M. G., Narducci, D., Martin-Gonzalez, M., ... Caironi, M. (Accepted/In press). Thermoelectrics: From history, a window to the future. Materials Science and Engineering R: Reports. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mser.2018.09.001

Thermoelectrics : From history, a window to the future. / Beretta, Davide; Neophytou, Neophytos; Hodges, James M.; Kanatzidis, Mercouri G; Narducci, Dario; Martin-Gonzalez, Marisol; Beekman, Matt; Balke, Benjamin; Cerretti, Giacomo; Tremel, Wolfgang; Zevalkink, Alexandra; Hofmann, Anna I.; Müller, Christian; Dörling, Bernhard; Campoy-Quiles, Mariano; Caironi, Mario.

In: Materials Science and Engineering R: Reports, 01.01.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Beretta, D, Neophytou, N, Hodges, JM, Kanatzidis, MG, Narducci, D, Martin-Gonzalez, M, Beekman, M, Balke, B, Cerretti, G, Tremel, W, Zevalkink, A, Hofmann, AI, Müller, C, Dörling, B, Campoy-Quiles, M & Caironi, M 2018, 'Thermoelectrics: From history, a window to the future', Materials Science and Engineering R: Reports. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mser.2018.09.001
Beretta, Davide ; Neophytou, Neophytos ; Hodges, James M. ; Kanatzidis, Mercouri G ; Narducci, Dario ; Martin-Gonzalez, Marisol ; Beekman, Matt ; Balke, Benjamin ; Cerretti, Giacomo ; Tremel, Wolfgang ; Zevalkink, Alexandra ; Hofmann, Anna I. ; Müller, Christian ; Dörling, Bernhard ; Campoy-Quiles, Mariano ; Caironi, Mario. / Thermoelectrics : From history, a window to the future. In: Materials Science and Engineering R: Reports. 2018.
@article{bbd5f05e06e94a7a9631d446cea336ef,
title = "Thermoelectrics: From history, a window to the future",
abstract = "Thermoelectricity offers a sustainable path to recover and convert waste heat into readily available electric energy, and has been studied for more than two centuries. From the controversy between Galvani and Volta on the Animal Electricity, dating back to the end of the XVIII century and anticipating Seebeck's observations, the understanding of the physical mechanisms evolved along with the development of the technology. In the XIX century {\O}rsted clarified some of the earliest observations of the thermoelectric phenomenon and proposed the first thermoelectric pile, while it was only after the studies on thermodynamics by Thomson, and Rayleigh's suggestion to exploit the Seebeck effect for power generation, that a diverse set of thermoelectric generators was developed. From such pioneering endeavors, technology evolved from massive, and sometimes unreliable, thermopiles to very reliable devices for sophisticated niche applications in the XX century, when Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators for space missions and nuclear batteries for cardiac pacemakers were introduced. While some of the materials adopted to realize the first thermoelectric generators are still investigated nowadays, novel concepts and improved understanding of materials growth, processing, and characterization developed during the last 30 years have provided new avenues for the enhancement of the thermoelectric conversion efficiency, for example through nanostructuration, and favored the development of new classes of thermoelectric materials. With increasing demand for sustainable energy conversion technologies, the latter aspect has become crucial for developing thermoelectrics based on abundant and non-toxic materials, which can be processed at economically viable scales, tailored for different ranges of temperature. This includes high temperature applications where a substantial amount of waste energy can be retrieved, as well as room temperature applications where small and local temperature differences offer the possibility of energy scavenging, as in micro harvesters meant for distributed electronics such as sensor networks. While large scale applications have yet to make it to the market, the richness of available and emerging thermoelectric technologies presents a scenario where thermoelectrics is poised to contribute to a future of sustainable future energy harvesting and management. This work reviews the broad field of thermoelectrics. Progress in thermoelectrics and milestones that led to the current state-of-the-art are presented by adopting an historical footprint. The review begins with an historical excursus on the major steps in the history of thermoelectrics, from the very early discovery to present technology. A panel on the theory of thermoelectric transport in the solid state reviews the transport theory in complex crystal structures and nanostructured materials. Then, the most promising thermoelectric material classes are discussed one by one in dedicated sections and subsections, carefully highlighting the technological solutions on materials growth that have represented a turning point in the research on thermoelectrics. Finally, perspectives and the future of the technology are discussed in the framework of sustainability and environmental compatibility.",
keywords = "Complex materials, Electrical conductivity, History, Materials, Nanostructure, Peltier, Power factor, Seebeck, Theory, Thermal conductivity, Thermoelectrics, Transport",
author = "Davide Beretta and Neophytos Neophytou and Hodges, {James M.} and Kanatzidis, {Mercouri G} and Dario Narducci and Marisol Martin-Gonzalez and Matt Beekman and Benjamin Balke and Giacomo Cerretti and Wolfgang Tremel and Alexandra Zevalkink and Hofmann, {Anna I.} and Christian M{\"u}ller and Bernhard D{\"o}rling and Mariano Campoy-Quiles and Mario Caironi",
year = "2018",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1016/j.mser.2018.09.001",
language = "English",
journal = "Materials Science and Engineering: R: Reports",
issn = "0927-796X",
publisher = "Elsevier BV",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Thermoelectrics

T2 - From history, a window to the future

AU - Beretta, Davide

AU - Neophytou, Neophytos

AU - Hodges, James M.

AU - Kanatzidis, Mercouri G

AU - Narducci, Dario

AU - Martin-Gonzalez, Marisol

AU - Beekman, Matt

AU - Balke, Benjamin

AU - Cerretti, Giacomo

AU - Tremel, Wolfgang

AU - Zevalkink, Alexandra

AU - Hofmann, Anna I.

AU - Müller, Christian

AU - Dörling, Bernhard

AU - Campoy-Quiles, Mariano

AU - Caironi, Mario

PY - 2018/1/1

Y1 - 2018/1/1

N2 - Thermoelectricity offers a sustainable path to recover and convert waste heat into readily available electric energy, and has been studied for more than two centuries. From the controversy between Galvani and Volta on the Animal Electricity, dating back to the end of the XVIII century and anticipating Seebeck's observations, the understanding of the physical mechanisms evolved along with the development of the technology. In the XIX century Ørsted clarified some of the earliest observations of the thermoelectric phenomenon and proposed the first thermoelectric pile, while it was only after the studies on thermodynamics by Thomson, and Rayleigh's suggestion to exploit the Seebeck effect for power generation, that a diverse set of thermoelectric generators was developed. From such pioneering endeavors, technology evolved from massive, and sometimes unreliable, thermopiles to very reliable devices for sophisticated niche applications in the XX century, when Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators for space missions and nuclear batteries for cardiac pacemakers were introduced. While some of the materials adopted to realize the first thermoelectric generators are still investigated nowadays, novel concepts and improved understanding of materials growth, processing, and characterization developed during the last 30 years have provided new avenues for the enhancement of the thermoelectric conversion efficiency, for example through nanostructuration, and favored the development of new classes of thermoelectric materials. With increasing demand for sustainable energy conversion technologies, the latter aspect has become crucial for developing thermoelectrics based on abundant and non-toxic materials, which can be processed at economically viable scales, tailored for different ranges of temperature. This includes high temperature applications where a substantial amount of waste energy can be retrieved, as well as room temperature applications where small and local temperature differences offer the possibility of energy scavenging, as in micro harvesters meant for distributed electronics such as sensor networks. While large scale applications have yet to make it to the market, the richness of available and emerging thermoelectric technologies presents a scenario where thermoelectrics is poised to contribute to a future of sustainable future energy harvesting and management. This work reviews the broad field of thermoelectrics. Progress in thermoelectrics and milestones that led to the current state-of-the-art are presented by adopting an historical footprint. The review begins with an historical excursus on the major steps in the history of thermoelectrics, from the very early discovery to present technology. A panel on the theory of thermoelectric transport in the solid state reviews the transport theory in complex crystal structures and nanostructured materials. Then, the most promising thermoelectric material classes are discussed one by one in dedicated sections and subsections, carefully highlighting the technological solutions on materials growth that have represented a turning point in the research on thermoelectrics. Finally, perspectives and the future of the technology are discussed in the framework of sustainability and environmental compatibility.

AB - Thermoelectricity offers a sustainable path to recover and convert waste heat into readily available electric energy, and has been studied for more than two centuries. From the controversy between Galvani and Volta on the Animal Electricity, dating back to the end of the XVIII century and anticipating Seebeck's observations, the understanding of the physical mechanisms evolved along with the development of the technology. In the XIX century Ørsted clarified some of the earliest observations of the thermoelectric phenomenon and proposed the first thermoelectric pile, while it was only after the studies on thermodynamics by Thomson, and Rayleigh's suggestion to exploit the Seebeck effect for power generation, that a diverse set of thermoelectric generators was developed. From such pioneering endeavors, technology evolved from massive, and sometimes unreliable, thermopiles to very reliable devices for sophisticated niche applications in the XX century, when Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators for space missions and nuclear batteries for cardiac pacemakers were introduced. While some of the materials adopted to realize the first thermoelectric generators are still investigated nowadays, novel concepts and improved understanding of materials growth, processing, and characterization developed during the last 30 years have provided new avenues for the enhancement of the thermoelectric conversion efficiency, for example through nanostructuration, and favored the development of new classes of thermoelectric materials. With increasing demand for sustainable energy conversion technologies, the latter aspect has become crucial for developing thermoelectrics based on abundant and non-toxic materials, which can be processed at economically viable scales, tailored for different ranges of temperature. This includes high temperature applications where a substantial amount of waste energy can be retrieved, as well as room temperature applications where small and local temperature differences offer the possibility of energy scavenging, as in micro harvesters meant for distributed electronics such as sensor networks. While large scale applications have yet to make it to the market, the richness of available and emerging thermoelectric technologies presents a scenario where thermoelectrics is poised to contribute to a future of sustainable future energy harvesting and management. This work reviews the broad field of thermoelectrics. Progress in thermoelectrics and milestones that led to the current state-of-the-art are presented by adopting an historical footprint. The review begins with an historical excursus on the major steps in the history of thermoelectrics, from the very early discovery to present technology. A panel on the theory of thermoelectric transport in the solid state reviews the transport theory in complex crystal structures and nanostructured materials. Then, the most promising thermoelectric material classes are discussed one by one in dedicated sections and subsections, carefully highlighting the technological solutions on materials growth that have represented a turning point in the research on thermoelectrics. Finally, perspectives and the future of the technology are discussed in the framework of sustainability and environmental compatibility.

KW - Complex materials

KW - Electrical conductivity

KW - History

KW - Materials

KW - Nanostructure

KW - Peltier

KW - Power factor

KW - Seebeck

KW - Theory

KW - Thermal conductivity

KW - Thermoelectrics

KW - Transport

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85055887669&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85055887669&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.mser.2018.09.001

DO - 10.1016/j.mser.2018.09.001

M3 - Article

JO - Materials Science and Engineering: R: Reports

JF - Materials Science and Engineering: R: Reports

SN - 0927-796X

ER -