The nano-polycrystalline material was created by realizing an ultra-fine crystalline structure in the scale of nanometers, meaning one over a billion meters

By Jean-Jacques
DeLisle, contributing writer

Semiconductor
producer LG Innotek
announced the creation of a new type of thermoelectric semiconductor

that utilizes nano-polycrystalline materials. The advancement was announced on
June 20th at the Thermoelectric Semiconductor Tech Forum and promises several
new cutting-edge advancements. Thermoelectric semiconductors are materials that
can produce an electric charge by utilizing a process known as the Seebeck
effect, an occurrence where a current is created by the temperature
differential between different parts of materials. Inversely, when an electric
current is passed through a thermoelectric semiconductor, the “Pelter Effect”
causes one side of the material to heat and the other to become cold. By taking
advantage of the two effects, the new materials are able to produce heating and
cooling, as well as providing valuable energy by collecting heat that would
otherwise be wasted.

 

The
new LG Innotek nano-polycrystalline design is groundbreaking in many ways. By
sizing down the crystalline materials used to create thermoelectric semiconductors
to a nanoscale, LG Innotek has managed to increase the durability of these
materials by two and a half fold. The drastic increase in strength provided by
these new materials opens up a whole new world of applications for this
technology that would have otherwise been impossible for single crystalline
materials, due to their fragility. Possible new applications for this
technology include upgrades to the automotive and boat industry, where the
semiconductors can utilize heat to produce a current, therefore lowering fuel
consumption and increasing efficiency. 

Image source: LG
Innotek.

 

Older
thermoelectric materials were unable to be used for automotive or boat
applications because vibrations from large engines would destroy or otherwise
render them unusable. The credit to the increase in strength we see in these
new semiconductors is due to their cutting-edge design. By packing large
amounts of microscopic nanocrystals together, rather than using large single
crystalline structures, the materials are more rigid and break resistant.

 

The
semiconductor also utilizes an independent module structure that provides a
minimized heat resistance allowing for a 30% increase in cooling effect from a
single crystalline thermoelectric semiconductor module. This improved
efficiency has the added bonus of lowering power consumption by up to 30%
opening many doors for new applications in low power cooling.

 

The
communications industry is also eyeing the new thermoelectric materials as a
solution to many problems. Optic communications technology must be kept cool
and at a stable temperature in order to function properly and keeping them at
the perfect temperature requires a lot of power. The increased efficiency of
the new semiconductors could solve this problem. Also, access heat from other
communications components could be harvested and converted into electricity to
be used to cool optical devices.

 

Lg
Innotek’s new semiconductors have far-reaching applications and could exceed
their non-polycrystalline counterparts in many ways. Another advancement
offered by these semiconductors is a reduction in sound. The new thermoelectric
materials can provide a powerful cooling effect without the loud sounds that
are associated with compression cooling devices such as those found in
refrigerators. The new technology is also much smaller and more compact than
compression coolers and could lead to much smaller and sleeker refrigeration
technology. 

TechNavio,
a company specializing in tech market research has estimated that the market
for thermoelectric semiconductors is expected to grow to 626.73 million USD in
2020, a huge leap from last year’s 471.55 million USD. In order to keep up with
this expected rise in demand, LG Innotek plans to ramp up production of the
materials to an unprecedented level in the coming months.  According to a company spokesperson, “LG
Innotek is now capable of providing a total solution that encompasses R&D,
production, and quality management of the thermoelectric semiconductor element
modules.” 

 

It
won’t be long until we see these thermoelectric polycrystalline semiconductors
making their way into everyday technology that we have all around us. The
semiconductors have both civil and industrial applications that cannot be
ignored. With the high conversion efficiency, they offer heat from existing
technology could be harvested on a larger scale and converted into electricity
to power our daily lives. The heat produced by engines is a waste product and
shows a lack of efficiency, but the new semiconductors could utilize this
energy which would otherwise be lost and convert it into usable viable power,
stored in batteries, or used to power other devices. The applications of these
new thermoelectric semiconductors are wide-ranging and we can only imagine how
they will be utilized in the future.

 

As
the world of technology continues to advance driven by the human desire to
create new things and improve the world around us we will see many new
advancements like this in the coming years. Following this trend, we can expect
to see smaller, more efficient and power technology coming every year for
decades to come and these new semiconductors are just the tip of the iceberg.