- Press Release Distribution

WVU lab’s game-changing high-performance semiconductor material could help slash heat emissions

( Researchers at West Virginia University have engineered a material with the potential to dramatically cut the amount of heat power plants release into the atmosphere.

A team led by Xueyan Song, professor and George B. Berry Chair of Engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, has created an oxide ceramic material that solves a longstanding efficiency problem plaguing thermoelectric generators. Those devices can generate electricity from heat, including power plant heat emissions, which contribute to global warming.

The breakthrough oxide ceramic Song’s team produced “achieved a record-high performance that had been deemed impossible,” she said. “We demonstrated the best thermoelectric oxide ceramics reported in the field worldwide over the past 20 years, and the results open up new research directions that could further increase performance.”

Cesar Octavio Romo de la Cruz, Yun Chen, Liang Liang and Sergio A. Paredes Navia  contributed to the study, supported by $639,784 in National Science Foundation funding. The findings appear in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

Oxide ceramics are from the same family as materials like pottery, porcelain, clay bricks, cement and silicon, but contain various metallic elements. They’re hard, resistant to heat and corrosion, and well-suited for high-temperature applications in air. They can serve as the material for thermoelectric generator components.

However, oxide ceramics have “polycrystalline” structures composed of multiple connected crystals. Engineers run into trouble with large-scale thermoelectric applications for those materials since the “grain boundaries,” the places where those crystals meet, block the current and electron flow that powers thermoelectric generators.

Song’s team converted that stumbling block into a stepping stone.

“We intentionally added ‘dopants,’ or metal ions, into the polycrystal ceramics, driving special kinds of dopants to segregate to the grain boundaries,” said postdoctoral researcher Romo de la Cruz. “That’s how we turned the unavoidable and detrimental grain boundaries into electricity-conducting pathways, significantly improving thermoelectric performance.”

The research responds to the growing problem of waste heat, a contributor to climate change and byproduct of most operations that convert fuel into power. When lightbulbs get hot to the touch, they’re giving off waste heat: inefficient extra energy that doesn’t contribute to their primary job of producing light. Waste heat is released into the atmosphere by systems as diverse as power plants, home heating systems and automobiles, and there’s enough of it being emitted that the global market for systems that recover it is projected to exceed $70 billion by 2026.

“Heat is used to make almost everything from food to metals and electricity,” Romo de la Cruz explained. “But during those processes, around 60% of the energy produced is unproductively released to the environment in the form of heat. Waste heat recovery will play an increasingly key role in balancing growing demand for electricity against the carbon footprint of industrial processes. Thermoelectric oxide ceramics like ours come into play by substantially improving the ability of thermoelectric generators to convert waste heat into electricity.”

Thermoelectric generators are a promising technology for waste heat recovery in part because they are simple to operate and maintain. A powerful thermoelectric generator could capture a significant portion of a power plant’s waste heat.

But “for the majority of applications, thermoelectric technology is too inefficient to be economical,” Song said. “Thermoelectric’s lack of effectiveness in converting energy severely hampers the development of thermoelectric devices, even though they are desperately needed.”

Her lab solved that problem using nanostructure engineering — manipulating the ceramic’s crystal structure on an atomic scale that can only be seen using an electron microscope — to create a dense, textured polycrystalline material that outperformed the single-crystal materials that are currently standard.

Although tuning the performance of various materials for thermoelectrics has stimulated intense theoretical and experimental work for decades, Song believes that for bulk oxide ceramics, her lab is the first to demonstrate a significant increase in the efficiency of energy generation from heat through the nano- and atomic-scale engineering of grain boundaries between crystals.

“This work is at the cusp for large-scale, high-temperature waste heat recovery,” she said. “It leads toward a new era for oxide ceramics and aligns with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Heat Shot initiative to develop cost-competitive industrial heat decarbonization technologies with at least 85% lower greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. Our findings could facilitate and accelerate materials design that is magnitudes higher than the current state of the art.”



William Evans joins Hertz Foundation board of directors

William Evans joins Hertz Foundation board of directors
The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the most promising innovators in science and technology, has announced the election of William Evans to its board of directors. Evans is the physics division leader in the Physical and Life Sciences Directorate at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), which works to enable United States security and global stability and resilience by empowering multidisciplinary teams to pursue bold and innovative science and technology. “It is imperative that the Hertz Foundation’s board of directors ...

COVID-19 pandemic has long-lasting effects on adolescent mental health and substance use

March 14, 2023-- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a long-lasting impact on adolescent mental health and substance use according to a new population-based study are based on survey responses from a nationwide sample of over 64,000 13–18-year-old North American and Icelandic adolescents assessed prior to and up to two years into the pandemic. The study was conducted by faculty at Columbia University Teachers College and Mailman School of Public Health and a team of Icelandic and other North American clinical, behavioral and social scientists. The findings are published in published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. This same research team ...

Learning behavior differs between OCD and problem gambling

Learning behavior differs between OCD and problem gambling
Shinsuke Suzuki at The University of Melbourne, Australia reports distinct patterns of reward-seeking behavior between obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and problem gambling, in a study publishing in the open access journal PLOS Biology on March 14th. OCD is associated with lower-than-normal learning rates when rewards are less than expected. On the other hand, people with problem gambling exhibit boosted and blunted learning from rewards higher and lower than expected, respectively. Understanding the differences between obsessive and addictive behaviors is essential for developing treatments for conditions like problem gambling ...

Global maternal Strep B vaccination program could save millions and prevent thousands of deaths worldwide

Global maternal Strep B vaccination program could save millions and prevent thousands of deaths worldwide
A global maternal immunization program for group B Streptococcus - strep B - would save millions in healthcare costs by reducing death and disability, but without tiered pricing, equitable access would likely not be achieved. Several vaccines are currently under development, and an assessment of the impact and value of a global program is publishing March 14th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine. It finds that this could avert over 200,000 cases and more than 31,000 deaths, and reduce disability in children. Strep B can infect pregnant women and their babies, causing sepsis and meningitis in newborns, and sometimes leading to death or disability. ...

Dark current modeling of thick perovskite X-ray detectors

Dark current modeling of thick perovskite X-ray detectors
X-ray detection is widely used in medical imaging, radioactivity detection, security checking, industrial flaw inspection, and so on. In recent years, metal halide perovskites have demonstrated excellent performances in the detection of X-rays and gamma-rays. However, most studies focus on perovskite single-pixel devices. To achieve the application goal of X-ray imagers, the detectors should be integrated with pixel circuits. This means that the device dark current is an important figure of merit to be considered. The low dark current can guarantee ...

Cleaning up the atmosphere with quantum computing

Cleaning up the atmosphere with quantum computing
WASHINGTON, March 14, 2023 – The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases daily with no sign of stopping or slowing. Too much of civilization depends on the burning of fossil fuels, and even if we can develop a replacement energy source, much of the damage has already been done. Without removal, the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere will continue to wreak havoc for centuries. Atmospheric carbon capture is a potential remedy to this problem. It would pull carbon dioxide out of the air and store it permanently to reverse the effects of climate change. Practical carbon capture technologies are still in the early stages of development, with the most promising involving ...

Fighting intolerance with physics

Fighting intolerance with physics
WASHINGTON, March 14, 2023 – In a world experiencing growing inequality and intolerance, tools borrowed from science and mathematics could be the key to understanding and preventing prejudice. In Chaos, by AIP Publishing, Luis A. Martinez-Vaquero of the Polytechnic University of Madrid applied evolutionary game theory, which combines techniques from economics and biology, and complex system analysis to investigate the relationship between inequality and intolerance. He found that inequality boosts intolerance and that redistribution ...

Association between California’s state insurance gender nondiscrimination act and utilization of gender-affirming surgery

About The Study: Implementation in California of its Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act was associated with a significant increase in utilization of gender-affirming surgery in California compared with the control states Washington and Arizona. These data might inform state legislative efforts to craft policies preventing discrimination in health coverage for state residents, including transgender and gender-diverse patients.  Authors: Anna Schoenbrunner, M.D., of Ohio State University in Columbus, is ...

COVID-19–related stress and postpartum maternal mental health, infant outcomes

About The Study: In this study of 318 mothers in Australia, the U.K., and the U.S., antenatal COVID-19–related stress was significantly associated with poor postpartum maternal mental health outcomes and increased negative affectivity among infants. Pregnant individuals should be classified as a vulnerable group during pandemics and should be considered a public health priority, not only in terms of physical health but also mental health.  Authors: Susanne Schweizer, Ph.D., of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, United Kingdom, is the corresponding author.  To access the embargoed study: Visit our For The Media website at this link ...

Intimate partner violence, mental health symptoms, and modifiable health factors in women during the pandemic

About The Study: The results of this study showed that intimate partner violence experiences at the start of the pandemic were associated with worse mental health symptoms and modifiable health factors for female participants younger than age 60. Screening and interventions for intimate partner violence and related health factors are needed to prevent severe, long-term health consequences.  Authors: Arielle A. J. Scoglio, Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, ...


Echidnapus identified from an ‘Age of Monotremes’

Semaglutide may protect kidney function in individuals with overweight or obesity and cardiovascular disease

New technique detects novel biomarkers for kidney diseases with nephrotic syndrome

Political elites take advantage of anti-partisan protests to disrupt politics

Tiny target discovered on RNA to short-circuit inflammation, UC Santa Cruz researchers find

Charge your laptop in a minute? Supercapacitors can help; new research offers clues

Scientists discover CO2 and CO ices in outskirts of solar system

Theory and experiment combine to shine a new light on proton spin

PKMYT1, a potential ‘Achilles heel’ of treatment resistant ER+ breast cancers with the poorest prognosis

PH-binding motifs as a platform for drug design: Lessons from protease-activated receptors (PARs)

Virginia Tech researcher creates new tool to move tiny bioparticles

On repeat: Biologists observe recurring evolutionary changes, over time, in stick insects

Understanding a broken heart

Genetic cause of rare childhood immune disorders discovered

With wobbling stars, astronomers gauge mass of 126 exoplanets and find 15 new ones

High H5N1 influenza levels found in mice given raw milk from infected dairy cows

Study finds discreet shipping used to sell e-cigarettes to minors

African scientists call for equitable research partnerships to advance microbiome research

How COVID-19 'breakthrough' infections alter your immune cells

Virginia Tech entomologist sheds light on 250-year-old mystery of the German cockroach

Advancing skin science: explore Skin Ageing & Challenges 2024 Strategic Topics in Malta this November

Controlling water, transforming greenhouse gases

MSK Research Highlights, May 24, 2024

ASCO: Large precision oncology study identifies differences in prostate cancer genomics among a racially and ethnically diverse cohort of U.S. veterans

ASCO: Combination therapy significantly improves outcomes for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer

Euclid space mission releases first scientific results and new images of the cosmos

Sociodemographic heterogeneity in the associations of social isolation with mortality

COVID-19 admission rates and changes in care quality in us hospitals

Preterm and early-term delivery after heat waves in 50 US metropolitan areas

Research spotlight: Virtual scribes reduced physicians’ time spent on electronic health records

[] WVU lab’s game-changing high-performance semiconductor material could help slash heat emissions