A team has developed a technology that can increase the flexibility and efficiency of a thermoelectric generator to the world’s highest level by using mechanical metamaterials that do not exist in nature.

Mechanical metamaterials, unlike materials in nature, are artificially designed to expand in both the horizontal and vertical directions when it is stretched in the horizontal direction. Metamaterials have a negative Poisson’s ratio. The researchers succeeded in increasing the stretchability of thermoelectric generators by up to 35 percent, using a gasket with the metastructure. A thermoelectric generator converts the temperature difference between two ends into electrical energy. It is called a next-generation eco-friendly energy harvesting device because it can utilize heat wasted in daily life as electricity.

The deformable gasket has a metastructure, which greatly increases the structural stability of the thermoelectric generator. It can be transformed into various shapes, stretches well like human skin, and is easy to attach anywhere. In addition, the partial airgap inside the gasket has excellent insulating properties, preventing heat loss and securing the efficiency of the thermoelectric generator by increasing the temperature difference by up to 30 percent compared to existing flexible thermoelectric generators. (Image credit: Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute)

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