Researchers Use Pencil and Paper to Convert Heat into Electricity

Researchers Use Pencil and Paper to Convert Heat into Electricity

Researchers used a normal HB-grade pencil and paper to convert heat into electricity, according to a new study published on February 16, 2018.

Theory of thermoelectric effect states that two different metals when brought close to each other, and one is warmer than the other, electrical voltage is developed between the two. A team of researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) understood that residual heat, a by-product of technology-related and natural processes, including power plants, household appliances, and human body, is a largely underutilized source of energy.

They discovered that thermoelectric materials are required to have low levels of thermal conductivity and high levels of electric conductivity at the same time. Thermoelectric devices are usually made up of inorganic semiconductor materials such as bismuth telluride. However, these systems are expensive and not applicable in all situations.

The team revealed that such effects can be exhibited by simply using a HB pencil and co-polymer varnish.

When the pencil is traced on a paper, it deliver a voltage close to that produced by expensive nanocomposites, which are widely used as flexible thermoelectric elements. The team observed that the voltage generated by this method can be increased tenfold by adding indium selenide to the pencil’s graphite.

They used scanning electron microscope and spectroscopic method to study the transfer of heat in graphite and co-polymer coating films.

Nickel, the lead author of the study said “The results were very surprising for us as well. But we have now found an explanation of why this works so well: the pencil deposit left on the paper forms a surface characterized by unordered graphite flakes, some graphene, and clay. While this only slightly reduces the electrical conductivity, heat is transported much less effectively.”

This development has the potential to be used in future applications such as printing thermoelectric components onto paper, making this procedure extremely cost-effective, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly.

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