UT-ORNL Study Refrigeration, Energy Technology (172)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Imagine generating electricity from automobile exhaust or cooling a refrigerator efficiently without a compressor.

 These and other innovations may be possible as a result of research now being conducted by the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

 UT-Knoxville physics professor Gerald Mahan said Thursday thermoelectrics is an old field of study that seemed until recently to offer few practical applications. “There are now many good reasons to renew the quest for superior thermoelectric materials,” said Mahan, who heads the UT-ORNL study.

 “A tremendous amount of quality research was done on thermoelectrics from about 1940 to 1965, but much of that was industrial work not published in the open literature systems,” Mahan said.

 Since then science has developed new materials that have not been examined and the environmental threat posed by conventional refrigeration methods is better understood, Mahan said.

 A report on the UT-ORNL study of thermoelectrics appears in the current issue of Physics Today. Mahan, a Distinguished Scientist in the UT-ORNL Science Alliance, holds joint appointments at UT and ORNL.

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 Contact: Dr. Gerald Mahan (423-974-8129)