The SearchLite is conducting a Market Discovery Challenge to understand the future of advanced thermoelectric materials and their applications.
Approximately 90% of the world’s electricity is generated by heat energy, typically operating at 30–40% efficiency, losing roughly 15 terawatts of power in the form of heat to the environment. Thermoelectric devices could convert some of this waste heat into useful electricity. Thermoelectric efficiency depends on the figure of merit, ZT. There is no theoretical upper limit to ZT, and as ZT approaches infinity, the thermoelectric efficiency approaches the Carnot limit. However, no known thermoelectrics have a ZT>3. Traditionally, thermoelectric generators serve application niches where efficiency and cost are less important than reliability, light weight, and small size.