Gli scienziati creano cristalli che generano elettricità dal calore

I precedenti dispositivi termoelettrici utilizzavano elementi costosi e tossici. Gli scienziati hanno ora creato cristalli economici costituiti da rame, manganese, germanio e zolfo che possono convertire efficacemente il calore in elettricità.

Minerale solfuro sintetico con proprietà termoelettriche.

Nel tentativo di convertire in modo efficiente il calore in elettricità, materiali facilmente accessibili da materie prime innocue aprono nuovi orizzonti nello sviluppo dei cosiddetti materiali termoelettrici sicuri ed economici. Il rame metallico sintetico acquisisce una struttura complessa e microscopica attraverso semplici cambiamenti nella sua composizione, ponendo le basi per le sue proprietà desiderabili, secondo uno studio recentemente pubblicato sulla rivista. Anguandt Kimi.

Il nuovo materiale sintetico è composto da rame, manganese, germanio e zolfo ed è prodotto con un processo abbastanza semplice, spiega lo scienziato dei materiali Emmanuel Gilmou, ricercatore del CNRS presso il Laboratorio CRISMAT, Caen, Francia, e autore corrispondente dello studio. . “Le polveri vengono miscelate meccanicamente mediante macinazione a sfere per formare una fase di precristallizzazione, che viene poi condensata di 600 gradi.[{” attribute=””>Celsius. This process can be easily scaled up,” he says.

Thermoelectric materials convert heat to electricity. This is especially useful in industrial processes where waste heat is reused as valuable electric power. The converse approach is the cooling of electronic parts, for example, in smartphones or cars. Materials used in these kinds of applications have to be not only efficient, but also inexpensive and, above all, safe for health.

However, thermoelectric devices used to date make use of expensive and toxic elements such as lead and tellurium, which offer the best conversion efficiency. To find safer alternatives, Emmanuel Guilmeau and his team have turned to derivatives of natural copper-based sulfide minerals. These mineral derivatives are mainly composed of nontoxic and abundant elements, and some of them have thermoelectric properties.

Now, the team has succeeded in producing a series of thermoelectric materials showing two crystal structures within the same material. “We were very surprised at the result. Usually, slightly changing the composition has little effect on the structure in this class of materials,” says Emmanuel Guilmeau describing their discovery.

The team found that replacing a small fraction of the manganese with copper produced complex microstructures with interconnected nanodomains, defects, and coherent interfaces, which affected the material’s transport properties for electrons and heat.

Emmanuel Guilmeau says that the novel material produced is stable up to 400 degrees Celsius (750 degrees Fahrenheit), a range well within the waste heat temperature range of most industries. He is convinced that, based on this discovery, novel cheaper, and nontoxic thermoelectric materials could be designed to replace more problematic materials.

Reference: “Engineering Transport Properties in Interconnected Enargite-Stannite Type Cu2+xMn1−xGeS4 Nanocomposites” by Dr. V. Pavan Kumar, S. Passuti, Dr. B. Zhang, Dr. S. Fujii, K. Yoshizawa, Dr. P. Boullay, Dr. S. Le Tonquesse, Dr. C. Prestipino, Prof. B. Raveau, Prof. P. Lemoine, Dr. A. Paecklar, Dr. N. Barrier, Prof. X. Zhou, Prof. M. Yoshiya, Dr. K. Suekuni, Dr. E. Guilmeau, 13 September 2022, Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
DOI: 10.1002/anie.202210600

Funding: Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

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