Slow heat conduction can be hazardous for components in circuit boards, because high temperatures can destroy the electronics. However, in a thermoelectric material, slow heat conduction, combined with good electrical conduction, can be used to transform heat into electrical energy. Such materials are used to generate power in space probes and to improve the efficiency of combustion engines, for example.
Having the right material in the right place is important to functionality and using the energy provided in the best way. Dr Paul Erhart from the Department of Applied Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, aims to use computer modeling to develop new materials in which the conduction of heat and electricity is better controlled. Among other things, he will study clathrates, which are special structures found in materials. They are like small cages in which atoms or molecules can be trapped. If the cage is too small, the captured particles will influence the movement of other atoms and may therefore reduce heat conduction. Better understanding of such materials may result in energy-efficient technology and a more sustainable society.
Photo: Jan-Olof Yxell