While single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) have been used in the construction of transparent solar cells and all-carbon solar cells, these are still very inefficient when compared to their conventional photovoltaic brethren. By supplementing the electricity generated by light with some thermoelectricity, the hybrid nanomaterial could outperform materials that only do one or the other.
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By pairing the material with microchips, the researchers say it could be used in self-powered sensors, low-power electronic devices, and biomedical implants.
“If we can convert both light and heat to electricity, the potential is huge for energy production,” said UT Arlington associate physics professor Wei Chen. “By increasing the number of the micro-devices on a chip, this technology might offer a new and efficient platform to complement or even replace current solar cell technology.”
The new material was synthesized by combining copper sulfide nanoparticles and SWNTs and then used in a prototype thermoelectric generator that the team hopes will eventually be able to produce milliwatts of power.
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