Engineers develop improved thermoelectric transducer

Japanese engineers have developed a thermoelectric transducer that could be used to capture waste heat in previously unsuitable applications.

NEC Corp and Tohoku University developed the device based on a relatively new physical phenomenon.

The ‘spin Seebeck effect’ generates a spin current of electrons in parallel with a temperature gradient in a magnetic body having a temperature difference. The transducer consists of two layers: one is a magnetic body layer that generates a spin current and the other is a metal-electrode layer that converts the spin current into an electric current.

Because the transducer can be formed by using a coating process, it is easy to increase the area of the transducer and it is possible to use a heat source having a complicated shape, such as a curved heat source, and a heat source with an indented surface. It is also much simpler to manufacture compared with existing thermoelectric transducers.

As a result, the transducer would potentially be able to make use of waste heat in places in which it is currently difficult to form thermoelectric transducers, including manufacturing plants, automobiles and electronic devices.