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A Research Team Develops High-efficiency Thermoelectric Materials
Working in collaboration with researchers at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), a research team led by Professor Chen Sinn-wen at the Department of Chemical Engineering is investigating ways of producing CoSb3-based filled skutterudite, one of the most viable candidates for thermoelectric applications in the automotive industry. As part of this ongoing endeavor, they have recently developed a low-doped Ce, which is of high quality and relatively stable. Moreover, since Ce is the most abundant and low-cost of all rare elements, there is a significant potential for commercial applications of this newly developed material. Their research has recently been published in Nature Communications.
While energy consumption increases worldwide, energy sources continue to be limited. In light of this looming energy crisis, a considerable amount of research is currently being carried out to fine ways to improve energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. One promising area of research focuses on the development of ways to recover waste heat and convert it into electricity. At present, one of the key challenges in such endeavor is to design thermoelectric materials with better conversion efficiency.
According to Prof. Chen, this joint project got started when researchers at Caltech took notice of his team’s achievements in phase diagram measurement technology. Then Caltech arranged a joint project under the aegis of the International Energy Program of Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology. The lead researcher at Caltech is Professor Shi Naide, who specializes in the design of thermoelectric materials and the measurement of their quality.
While CoSb3 was already considered to have good thermoelectric properties, the addition of Ce makes it even better, and Prof. Chen believes that further improvements are also possible. According to Prof. Chen, cars waste a lot of heat, but if that heat can be effectively recycled, that would result in a significant increase in energy efficiency. Prof. Chen says that thermoelectric material produced with a small amount of doped-Ce has a great competitive advantage, since Ce is the most abundant of all the rare elements on the surface of the earth. Thus it has strong potential for future commercial applications.
In addition to having their study published in Nature Communications, Prof. Chen and his colleagues at Caltech had previously found that CoSb3 doped with a small amount of In can significantly enhance the quality of thermoelectric materials to 1.2. This additional finding has been recently published in the prestigious journal, Energy and Environmental Science.
Prof. Chen Sinn-wen, whose groundbreaking joint research has recently been published in Nature Communications.

Prof. Chen Sinn-wen, whose groundbreaking joint research has recently been published in Nature Communications.


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