Thermoelectric Paint Converts Heat Into Electricity



Things used to be simple for paint. It was slapped on a building, where its only obligation was to look nice for a few years before requiring a new coat. But times have changed, and as science moves forward we expect our resources to multitask — and paint is no different. Now it has to be more than just a pretty shade; scientists are developing a paint that can turn heat into electrical energy.

In the ongoing crusade to discover alternative forms of electrical energy, paint was no doubt low on the list of possible candidates. But experts at the Ulsan Institute of Science and Technology saw unexplored potential in this material. The have designed and developed thermoelectric paint, which absorbs waste heat energy from buildings and converts it into electric power.

The paint contains thermoelectric particles and molecular sintering aids. The sintering aids compress the paint and form it into a solid mass that covers the surface of the structure. When combined, these chemicals can draw on the heat energy expelled by a building or vehicle. The molecular aids increase the density of the paint, which allows it to collect even more of the heat energy and conserve it effectively. This paint is being described as solar cells you can put on any surface, and will store energy that would otherwise be wasted.

One of the primary problems with absorbing heat from buildings and devices has been the waste; because of the way panels are applied to structures, a lot of energy ends up being lost in the conversion. But thermoelectric paint applies easily to buildings and vehicles, providing complete contact with no room for any energy to escape.

This innovative paint is an exciting development when it comes to clean energy, but for the scientists at UIST it is just the beginning. From their work with thermoelectric paint, they hope to develop a whole variety of different materials and resources with which they can capture and conserve energy. Their next plan? Thermoelectric paint that can be worn on the body, absorbing the heat energy we expel on a daily basis. But as the scientists are quick to point out, the applications for this innovation are virtually endless.

You can read the complete report on their findings here.


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