PITTSBURGH (April 8, 2019) — As much as half of all U.S.
energy production each year is lost as waste heat, but new research led by the
University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with
Carnegie Mellon University, seeks to make converting that heat back into usable
electricity more efficient.
Feng Xiong, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and
computer engineering at the Swanson School, and Jonathan Malen, professor of
mechanical engineering at CMU, received a $500,000
award from the National Science Foundation to develop a thermoelectric
semiconductor using tungsten disulfide to convert waste heat into energy. Using
a novel doping approach, they will enhance the tungsten disulfide’s electrical
conductivity while lowering its thermal conductivity—it will be able to
efficiently conduct electricity without conducting heat. Tungsten disulfide is
thin and flexible, making it a promising new option with diverse potential
“Once we’ve developed an effective technique to improve
thermoelectric efficiency, it will pave the way for the wide use of
thermoelectric devices to scavenge heat from sources such as electronics and even
the human body,” says Dr. Xiong. “A two-dimensional semiconductor like this
would be useful for everything from high-performance 2D transistors to wearable
electronics that harvest body heat for power.”
The project length is three years, with a possible extension
into a fourth. The award is split between Dr. Xiong’s lab ($270,000) and Dr.
Malen’s lab ($230,000). The team will work closely with local communities to
encourage students from all backgrounds to explore engineering careers and
foster interest in nanotechnology. Outreach efforts will include lab demonstrations,
summer internships and career workshops.
“Climate change is a pressing concern in today’s world, and developing
ways to use our resources more efficiently is critical,” says Dr. Xiong.
“Converting waste heat into electricity could improve energy efficiency
dramatically and sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through this project,
we hope to encourage the next generation to explore even more innovative
options for energy.”
Maggie Pavlick, 4/8/2019
Contact: Maggie Pavlick