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Tokyo, April 25, 2016 - NEC Corporation , NEC TOKIN Corporation and TOHOKU UNIVERSITY have jointly created a thermoelectric (TE) device*1 using cutting edge thermoelectric conversion technology, the spin Seebeck effect *2, with conversion efficiency 10 times higher than the conventional method *3.
Thermoelectric conversion technology that converts energy abandoned as waste heat back to electric power is strongly anticipated to be used for saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Although conventional spin Seebeck thermoelectric devices have the advantages of a low manufacturing cost and high versatility and durability, their energy conversion efficiency is inferior.
"We have improved the conversion efficiency of this spin Seebeck thermoelectric device by more than 10 times because of its newly developed material and device structure," said Soichi Tsumura, General Manager, IoT Device Research Laboratories, NEC Corporation. "Furthermore, devices made of flexible material, such as resin, have been achieved using a manufacturing process that does not require high-temperature heat treatment."
"The conversion efficiency of this new spin thermoelectric device has been improved by almost one million times when compared to the earliest device, and has taken an important step towards practical use as a generator element. The achievement of practical use as a heat flux sensor is also in sight."
In the future, the three parties participating in this development aim to further the research and development of technologies to generate electricity from the large amount of waste heat emitted by plants, data centers, vehicles and others.
Key features of this new technology are as follows:
1.Development of a low-cost, high-performance ferromagnetic alloy and significant improvement in thermoelectric conversion efficiency
Conventionally, expensive platinum was used as the electrode material to extract electric power in a spin Seebeck thermoelectric device. This time, new cobalt alloys were developed to replace the platinum. As a result, the cost was significantly reduced. Furthermore, the combination of the thermoelectric effect termed the "Anomalous Nernst Effect," *4 appearing due to the ferromagnetic properties added to the cobalt alloys and the spin Seebeck effect, have improved the thermoelectric conversion efficiency by more than 10 times.
These results were achieved as part of the Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) "SAITOH Spin Quantum Rectification Project" (Research Director: Eiji Saitoh, Professor of Tohoku University; Research Period: 2014 - 2020 fiscal year) of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).
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