Thermoelectric materials are materials which work at the expense of a difference of temperatures between their surfaces and will transform heat to electric energy. If to make of such materials, for example, a jacket, such jacket could recharge the mobile phone at the expense of a difference of body temperature of the person and ambient temperature. Despite so promising prospects, the high cost of materials, high cost of production and low efficiency of thermoelectric generators, do economically unprofitable their practical application. However, thanks to the new technology developed by specialists of Institute of technologies of materials of Fraunhofer (Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology), production of thermoelectric generators can become rather inexpensive to start considering seriously their universal use.
Used for production of thermoelectric generators the technology not strongly differs from process of a usual inkjet printing. Using the jet printer and ink with special structure, scientists made thin and flexible sheets of thermoelectric generators of Fraunhofer's institute (thermoelectric generators, TEG). As ink for the press of these electric generators active polymeric paste from cheap thermoelectric material which to be put on a film surface with the thinnest layer is used. And use of more perfect technologies of the three-dimensional press will be able to transform to the thermoelectric generator a surface of any subject even with very difficult form.
Films with the thermoelectric generators printed on their surfaces can be used for a covering of internal surfaces of coolers which are used for cooling of water or other heat carriers, pipelines on which in reservoirs the water cooling coppers of thermal and reactors of nuclear power plants is dumped. It will allow to return back in the form of electric energy a quantity of heat which earlier simply went to dead losses.
Efficiency of thermoelectric generators is very small, most effective of them can transform to electricity of only 15-20 percent of heat, and it is considered the most typical the indicator of efficiency equal to 8 percent. In case thermoelectric generators and their installation don't demand big expenses, their use will be reasonable from the economic point of view. It also managed to achieve the scientist from Fraunhofer's institute, thanks to application of new type of a thermoelectric material and the inexpensive production technology. In addition, the new polymeric thermoelectric material is absolutely harmless in distinguish from other similar materials containing toxic and harmful substances, such as lead.
New thermoelectric generators and technology of their production will be shown soon on the experimental cooler which becomes one of Messe exhibits in Hanover.