Engineering researchers have recently discovered a new alloy material that converts heat directly into electricity. This revolutionary energy conversion method is in the early stages of development, but it could have wide-sweeping impact on creating environmentally friendly electricity from waste heat sources.
“This research is very promising because it presents an entirely new method for energy conversion that’s never been done before,” said professor Richard James, who led the research team.
To create the material, the research team combined elements at the atomic level to create a new multiferroic alloy, Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10. Multiferroic materials combine unusual elastic, magnetic and electric properties. The alloy Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 achieves multiferroism by undergoing a highly reversible phase transformation where one solid turns into another solid. During this phase transformation the alloy undergoes changes in its magnetic properties that are exploited in the energy conversion device.
During a small-scale demonstration in a University of Minnesota lab, the new material created by the researchers begins as a non-magnetic material, then suddenly becomes strongly magnetic when the temperature is raised a small amount. When this happens, the material absorbs heat and spontaneously produces electricity in a surrounding coil. Some of this heat energy is lost in a process called hysteresis. A critical discovery of the team is a systematic way to minimize hysteresis in phase transformations. The team’s research was recently published in the first issue of the new scientific journal Advanced Energy Materials.
University of Minnesota
Video of the new material suddenly become magnetic when heated.
Vijay Srivastava , Yintao Song , Kanwal Bhatti , and R. D. James: The Direct Conversion of Heat to Electricity UsingMultiferroic Alloys
New alloy material that converts heat directly into electricity
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