Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Cold neutrons used in hot pursuit of better thermoelectrics
Thermoelectric devices are highly versatile, with the ability to convert heat into electricity, and electricity into heat. They are small, lightweight, and extremely durable because they have no moving parts, which is why they have been used to power NASA spacecraft on long-term missions, including the Voyager space probes launched in 1977.
Because applying an electrical current to a thermoelectric causes charged particles to diffuse from the material’s hot side to their cold side, they are widely used in cooling applications to pull heat out of systems, such as in heat pumps, fiber-optic devices, and car seats—and to control the temperature of battery packs. The process is also reversible and can effectively reclaim “waste heat” to...