Scientists at Osaka University have reported that they have developed an inexpensive, large-scale and flexible thermoelectric generator that has high mechanical reliability and can convert waste heat into electricity efficiently.

Thermoelectric conversion is one of the most promising techniques for converting waste heat at temperatures below 150°C into electric power.

However, widespread adoption of this technology has been hampered by high cost and lack of suitable packaging techniques for thermoelectric generation modules.

Now, the scientists at Osaka University have developed a method to manufacture the modules in a cost-efficient manner while preserving their conversion efficiency. Their process is based on conventional semiconductor packaging techniques, allowing mass production and lowering the cost of the modules.

The new process involves mounting small thermoelectric semiconductor chips on a flexible thin plastic substrate on which the researchers were able to achieve reliable and stable adhesion of the electrical contacts between the chips and the substrate.

A unique feature of their module is the parallel integration of electrodes, which allows the module to be bent in any direction. The researchers believe that this gives their material great potential for applications in portable, wearable, or implantable electronic devices.