A device would one able to turn heat energy into a usable fuel source. The device is being developed by physicist Yi Gu from Washington State University. The heat is generated by a wide array of electronics. The device is named a van der Waals Schottky diode, so the device turns heat into electricity more effectively than silicon. The new diode could provide an extra source of power in the early stage of development.

Yi Gu, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy said, “The ability of our diode to convert heat into electricity is very large compared to other bulk materials currently used in electronics”.

Further, Gu added, “In the future, one layer could be attached to something hot like a car exhaust or a computer motor and another to a surface at room temperature, the diode would then use the heat differential between the two surfaces to create an electric current that could be stored in a battery and used when needed”.

Schottky diodes are created by attaching a conductor metal such as aluminum with semiconductor material like silicon, diodes used to direct the electricity in a specific direction.

Yi Gu and his team constructed a diode from a multilayer of microscopic and used a heating process to modify one layer to act as a metal and another layer to act as a semiconductor. Afterward, the researcher makes use of the confocal microscope. The confocal microscope developed by a start-up company Klar Scientific.

The Gu’s diode has no impurities, and smooth connection of metal and semiconductor allows electricity to travel through the multi-layered device.

A co-author McCluskey said, “When you attach a metal to a semiconductor material like silicon to form a Schottky diode, there are always some defects that form at the interface”. Further, McCluskey added, “These imperfections trap electrons, impeding the flow of electricity. Gu’s diode is unique in that its surface does not appear to have any of these defects. This lowers resistance to the flow of electricity, making the device much more energy efficient”.

Gu said, “While still in the preliminary stages, our work represents a big leap forward in the field of thermoelectric”. Further, he added, “It could play an important role in realizing a more energy-efficient society in the future”.