The team modelled the number of nanoblades per unit area that will produce the most energy without reducing the temperature difference. "We optimized the configuration of our devices to place them among the most efficient thermoelectric generators in the world," said researcher Gangyi Hu. "Because it's silicon, it remains low-cost, easy to install, maintenance-free, long-lasting and potentially biodegradable."
Lee said the work was also novel because they used an automated industrial manufacturing line to fabricate the silicon integrated-circuit thermoelectric generators.
"We want to integrate this technology with a microprocessor, with a sensor on the same chip, with an amplifier or radio, and so on. Our work was done in the context of that full set of rules that govern everything that goes into mass-producing chips," Lee said. "You can live with a 40% reduction in thermoelectric ability relative to exotic materials because your cost per watt generated plummets," he said. "The marginal cost is a factor of 100 lower."
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