UNIST researchers develop thermoelectric technology to produce power-generating tubes using AM

September 3, 2021

Additive Manufacturing of power-generating TE tube: (a) The power-generating TE tube made of the additively manufactured p-type and n-type PbTe tubes at front view. (b) The components for the module assembly. (c) The fabricated power-generating TE tube chipping unipair of p-type and n-type PbTe legs and schematic model of a power-generating tube chipping ten pairs of TE legs assembled from the fabricated unit module (Courtesy UNIST)

A research team, affiliated with Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) located in Ulsan, South Korea, have successfully developed a thermoelectric technology to produce power-generating tubes using Additive Manufacturing.

In this study, researchers created the thermoelectric tube using an additively manufactured ink made of lead (Pb) and tellurium (Te). Metal particles were mixed inside a glycerol solvent to provide viscoelasticity, a status that exhibits both viscous and elastic characteristics. The tube has a high thermoelectric performance at temperatures between 400 and 800°C, which is the temperature range of a car’s exhaust gases. The tube shape reportedly makes it more effective in collecting heat than a conventional cuboid type.

The research study was jointly led by Professor Han Gi Chae and Professor Jae Sung Son from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Professor Sung Youb Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UNIST. The following researchers jointly participated in the study: Professor Sangjoon Ahn, Dr Jaehyung Hong, Professor Ji Eun Lee from Chonnam National University, and Jeongin Jang from Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute.

“Through this research, we will be able to effectively convert heat generated by factory chimneys, the most common type of waste heat source, into electricity,” stated Professor Son. He explained this is because the existing thermoelectric devices were in rectangular parallelepiped shapes.

Professor Chae added, “If we use 3D printing technology in the production of thermoelectric materials, we will be able to overcome limits of conventional materials. The new technology for providing viscoelastic characteristics to 3D printed materials will be used in various other sectors.”

Schematic illustration showing the doping-induced surface charges of Na- and Sb-doped PbTe particles generating viscoelastic colloids (Courtesy UNIST)

The findings of this research were published in Advanced Energy Materials on April 15, 2021, under the journal reference: Jungsoo Lee, Seungjun Choo, Hyejin Ju, et al., “Doping-Induced Viscoelasticity in PbTe Thermoelectric Inks for 3D Printing of Power-Generating Tubes,” Adv. Energy Mater., (2021).


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