Madrid, 15 years old (Europe Press)
A research team led by the University of Liverpool in the UK has discovered a new inorganic material with the lowest thermal conductivity ever recorded. This discovery paves the way for the development of new thermoelectric materials that will be essential to a sustainable society.
Published in Science, the discovery represents a breakthrough in the control of heat flow at the atomic scale, achieved through materials design. Provides fundamental new insights into energy management. The new understanding will accelerate the development of new materials for converting waste heat into energy and for efficient fuel use.
The research team, led by Professor Matt Rosinsky, of the university’s Department of Chemistry and Materials Innovation Factory, and Dr John Alaria, of the university’s Department of Physics and the Stevenson Institute for Renewable Energy, designed and synthesized the new materials in a way that combined two different arrangements of atoms that were found to slow the rate of transition Heat through the structure of the solid.
They identified the mechanisms responsible for reducing heat transfer in each of these two arrangements by measuring and modeling the thermal conductivity of two different structures, each containing one of the required arrangements.
It is difficult to combine these mechanisms into a single material, because researchers have to precisely control the arrangement of the atoms in it. Intuitively, scientists expect to obtain average physical properties of the two components. By choosing favorable chemical interfaces between each of these different atomic arrangements, the team experimentally synthesized a material that combines the two.
This new material, with two arrangements combined, has a thermal conductivity much lower than any of the original materials by an order of one. This unexpected result shows the synergistic effect of chemical control of the atomic positions in the structure, which is why the properties of the entire structure are superior to those of the two individual parts.
If we take the thermal conductivity of steel as 1, then the titanium rod is 0.1, the water and building bricks are 0.01, the new material is 0.001, and the air is 0.0005.
Almost 70% of all energy generated in the world is wasted in the form of heat. Materials with low thermal conductivity are essential to reduce and benefit from this waste. The development of new and more efficient thermal materials capable of converting heat into electricity is a major source of clean energy.
Professor Matt Rosinsky notes that “the discovered material has the lowest thermal conductivity of any inorganic solid and is almost as poor a conductor of heat as air itself.
He stresses, “The implications of this discovery are important, both for basic scientific understanding and for practical applications in thermoelectric devices that collect waste heat and as thermal barrier coatings for more efficient gas turbines.”
For his part, Dr. John Alaria emphasized, “This exciting result is that it is possible to improve the property of a material using complementary physics concepts and a suitable atomic interface. In addition to heat transfer, this strategy can be applied to other important fundamental physical properties, such as magnetism and superconductivity, Which would lead to less energy expense and more efficient transmission of electricity.”