Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Sustainable Energy

Electricity from Heat

Toward cheaper thermoelectrics.

Materials that convert heat directly into electricity have been useful for some niche applications, like powering deep-space probes. But they’ve been too expensive and inefficient for their potential killer app: harvesting immense amounts of energy from the waste heat generated by power plants and cars. Now researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have shown that a cheap organic material can make electricity from heat, potentially opening the way to affordable “thermo­electrics.”

By trapping organic molecules between a gold surface and the ultrafine gold tip of a scanning tunneling microscope, researchers have shown that the molecules could be used to generate electricity.

The researchers trapped a few organic molecules between a sheet of gold and the ultrasharp gold tip of a scanning tunneling microscope. They heated the gold surface and used the microscope tip to measure the voltage created by the junction of molecule and metal. A large-scale heat-­conversion system will require a process for arranging multiple layers of such junctions between two sheets of metal, one for applying heat and the other for harvesting electricity.

AI is here. Will you lead or follow?
Join us at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Online Only.
  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.