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Thermosensitive crystallization–boosted liquid thermocells for low-grade heat harvesting

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Science  10 Sep 2020:
eabd6749
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd6749

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Abstract

Low-grade heat (below 373 K) is abundant and ubiquitous, but mostly wasted due to the lack of cost-effective recovery technologies. The liquid-state thermocell (LTC), an inexpensive and scalable thermoelectric device, may be commercially viable for harvesting low-grade heat energy if its Carnot-relative efficiency (ηr) reaches ~5%, which is a challenging metric to achieve experimentally. We used a thermosensitive crystallization and dissolution process to induce persistent concentration gradient of redox ions, a highly enhanced Seebeck coefficient (~3.73 mV K–1), and suppressed thermal conductivity in LTCs. As a result, we achieved a high ηr of 11% for LTCs near room temperature, and a substantially decreased cost-performance of our LTC. Our device demonstration offers promise for cost-effective low-grade heat harvesting.

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