Dresselhaus, MIT and BC colleagues achieve thermoelectric breakthrough

March 23, 2008

An international team of scientists from Boston College and MIT have announced work on thermoelectric research which will impact numerous current applications ranging from semiconductors and air conditioners to car exhasut systems and solar power technology. This work has been described online in the journal Science.

By building tiny alloy nanostructures that can serve as micro-coolers and power generators, the team has overcome the elusive use of the thermoelectric effect, a phenomenon which was discovered in the late 19th century. Specifically, the team has redesigned bismuth antimony telluride, a seminconductor that has been commonly used since the 1950s, to now realize a 40 percent increase in the alloy's 'figure of merit', a term scientists use to measure a material's relative performance.

The team includes Boston College physicist Zhifeng Ren; Mildred S. Dresselhaus, MIT Institute professor and faculty emeritus in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the MIT Department of Physics; Gang Chen, the Warren and Towneley Rohsenow Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT; research scientist Bed Poudel at GMZ Energy, Inc, a Newton, Mass.-based company formed by Ren, Chen, and CEO Mike Clary; and BC visiting Professor Junming Liu, a physicist from Nanjing University in China.

For further reading:

>MIT News Office, March 20, 2008 article

>Science Express

>Boston College online article, March 20, 2008

>the Science Section of The Boston Globe, March 24, "From heat to electricity and back again."