Pin It

The landing of NASA's Perseverance rover was another leap forward not only for space exploration but also for the technology that's powering the craft on its years-long mission on Mars—a thermoelectric generator that turns heat into electricity.

Looking for the next leap in thermoelectric technologies, researchers at Duke University and Michigan State University gained new fundamental insights into two magnesium-based materials (Mg3Sb2 and Mg3Bi2) that have the potential to significantly outperform traditional thermoelectric designs and would also be more environmentally friendly and less expensive to manufacture. Contrary to prevailing scientific wisdom regarding the use of , the researchers showed that replacing atoms of heavier elements such as calcium and ytterbium with lighter magnesium atoms actually led to a threefold increase in the magnesium-based materials' performance.

In their research, published in the journal Science Advances, the team used neutron and X-ray scattering experiments at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge (ORNL) and Argonne national laboratories, as well as supercomputer simulations at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC). Investigations at the  revealed the origin and mechanism behind the materials' ability to convert thermal energy at room temperature into electricity. The findings indicate possible new pathways for improving thermoelectric applications such as those in the Perseverance rover and myriad other devices and energy-generation technologies.

To read more, click here.