The Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network has published a position paper looking at why the UK should invest in thermoelectrics and the role of nanotechnology.

According to New Electronics web site, the event which sparked the report saw presentations from key industry players in industry and academia, highlighted the commercial potential in harvesting energy from waste heat, the significant barriers to increasing conversion efficiency and finding alternative, sustainable, thermoelectric materials.

Thermal energy harvesting (and solid state cooling) represents a global £1bn industry for improved products in a range of markets and application scenarios.

Despite the existing barriers to widespread adoption, the NanoKTN believes that nanotechnology offers the potential for new approaches and a paradigm shift in performance, through nanomaterials development, nanostructuring, nano and microelectronic devices and thin film technologies.

“The UK is uniquely positioned with leading players over the entire supply chain required to produce and deploy this new generation of energy system,” said Dr Martin Kemp, theme manager at NanoKTN, pictured.

“To date, harvesting energy hasn’t had that much attention but now this is changing as people relaise a huge amount of heat is being lost. Harvesting energy from wasted heat is both a technical and economic opportunity with the current global market of thermoelectric devices estimated to be around $300million. If the technical challenges can be overcome then the potential applications are extremely wide and the potential market would be many £billions and we will fulfil the ambition to create more highly skilled jobs in science and engineering.”

The white paper highlighted power generation as a key industry, either in using the sun’s energy for domestic solar thermal and lighting systems, or harvesting the waste heat generated by power stations, or electronics and supercomputers .

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