Last year, the U.S. generated over four trillion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity. As much as half of that energy production was lost as waste heat.
Jonathan Malen, professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and Feng Xiong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, are working on a solution. With a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation, the researchers are combining their expertise 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. Because tungsten disulfide is thin and flexible, it is a promising new option with diverse potential uses.
Future applications for this work could include high-performance transistors and wearable electronics that harvest body heat. In addition to improving energy efficiency in electronic devices, this research can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The researchers plan to 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.