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Thermoelectric power is becoming a feasible alternative for clean energy with the discovery of new materials - and a new layered crystal containing rhenium and silicon could usher the future of these devices.

Thermoelectric power generators create electricity from heat generated by other processes, which makes them an appealing method for cutting down carbon footprint from existing industrial and automotive processes. However, the technology is largely limited by the problem of regulating temperature, especially on the hot side. Existing materials get too hot over time, causing the device to fail.

One solution that works around this limitation is the use of transverse thermoelectric devices. This class of devices creates a current that runs perpendicular to the conductive medium, so it only requires contacts at the cold end of the generator. While the technology is promising, it remains inefficient and impractical for real-world applications - until now.

A research team from Ohio State University found the new material, a layered crystal made up of rhenium and silicon, that could be the "gold standard" for transverse thermoelectric devices. They presented their findings in the report "Highly efficient transverse thermoelectric devices with Re4Si7 crystals†," appearing in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

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