A piece of film is coated in thermoelectric ink. (Credit: KTH Royal Institute of Technology)

Researchers are closing in on a way to replace batteries for wearables and low-power applications designed for the Internet of Things (IoT). The answer lies in an ink coating that enables low-grade heat, which is generated by devices, to be converted to electrical power. The blend of thermoelectric coating generates heat amounting to less than 100 °C.

The research focused on the design and development of hybrid thermoelectric materials for room-temperature operations, which integrates solid-state semiconductors with flexible materials such as polymers, to formulate inks.

The coating can be applied to any surface that dissipates heat to generate electrical power. The research also makes headway in gaining better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of materials used for hybrid thermoelectric material design. The results open a new low-cost and sustainable way of producing and implementing thermoelectric coatings on a large scale.