A thermoelectric material that uses electrons can develop 100 µV/K (microvolt per Kelvin), which is to be compared with 10 mV/K from the new material. The signal is thus 100 Simone Fabiano and Dan Zhao Photo credit Peter Holgersson ABtimes stronger, and a small temperature difference gives a strong signal.
Nature CommunicationsThe results from the research, carried out by scientists at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University, Chalmers University of Technology, Stuttgart Media University and the University of Kentucky, have been published in Nature Communications.
Dan Zhao, research fellow at Linköping University and one of three principal authors of the article, has discovered the new material, an electrolyte that consists of a gel of several ionic polymers. Some of the components are polymers of p-type, in which positively charged ions carry the current. Such polymers are well-known from previous work. However, she has also found a highly conductive polymer gel of n-type, in which negatively charged ions carry the current. Very few such materials have been available until now.
First printed thermoelectric module in the worldWith the aid of previous results from work with electrolytes for printed electronics, the researchers have now developed the first printed thermoelectric module in the world to use Ultra-sensitive heat sensor Photo credit Peter Holgersson ABions as charge carriers. The module consists of linked n- and p-legs, where the number of leg connections determines how strong a signal is produced. The scientists have used screen printing to manufacture a highly sensitive heat sensor, based on the different and complementary polymers. The heat sensor has the ability that convert a tiny temperature difference to a strong signal: a module with 36 connected legs gives 0.333 V for a temperature difference of 1 K.
“The material is transparent, soft and flexible and can be used in a highly sensitive product that can be printed and in this way used on large surfaces. Applications are found within wound healing, where a bandage that shows the progress of the healing process is used, and for electronic skin”, says Dan Zhao.
Another possible application is in temperature exchange in smart buildings.
Xavier Crispin, Simone Fabiano and Dan Zhao Photo credit Peter Holgersson ABIn addition to Dan Zhao, the article in Nature Communications has two further principal authors, Simone Fabiano, head of research within organic nanoelectronics and Xavier Crispin, professor in organic electronics, all three of whom work at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, Campus Norrköping.
The research has been financed by, among other sources, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Tail of the Sun project, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, the Swedish Research Council and Vinnova.
Polymer gels with tunable ionic Seebeck coefficient for ultra-sensitive printed thermopiles
Dan Zhao, Anna Martinelli, Andreas Willfahrt, Thomas Fischer, Diana Bernin, Zia Ullah Khan, Maryam Shahi, Joseph Brill, Magnus P. Jonsson, Simone Fabiano, Xavier Crispin. Nature Communications 2019, doi 10.1038/s41467-019-08930-7
Translated by George Farrants