“Thermoelectric devices are based on the fact that when certain materials are heated, they generate a significant electrical voltage. Conversely, when a voltage is applied to them, they become hotter on one side, and colder on the other. The process works with a variety of materials, and especially well with semiconductors — the materials from which computer chips are made.”
Previously thermoelectric devices were far too inefficient to be of use. But by adding nanoscale structures a few billionths of a metre across, the heat conductivity of a material can be disrupted whilst the electricity passes through fine, ramping the efficiency up massively. Imagine a computer chip that doesn’t get heated as it works, or a solar cell that uses heat as well as light to generate electricity. Thermo electrics are already starting to get efficient enough to cool your car seat – how soon before they start to be used in the growing low energy pc market?