Nanomanufacturing of Nanophononic Devices: Ultra-High ZT Thermoelectrics for Efficient Conversion of Waste Heat

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OPEN 2018
Boulder, Colorado
Project Term:
04/02/2019 - 06/30/2023

Technology Description:

The University of Colorado Boulder aims to revolutionize thermoelectrics, the semiconductor devices that convert heat flow into electricity without moving parts or emitting pollutants, by creating a “nanophononic” thermoelectric device. This concept relies on a newly discovered phenomenon where closely packed tiny structures added perpendicular to a thin solid membrane impede the flow of heat down the membrane through atomic vibrations (phonons). The device is predicted to convert waste heat to electricity at twice the efficiency of today’s best thermoelectric devices.

Potential Impact:

The project team aims to build and test a record-efficiency prototype thermoelectric device based upon theoretical advances in nanophononic metamaterial design, generating significant improvement over the current state-of-the-art.


Turning waste heat into usable electric power adds an alternate energy stream.


Efficient waste-heat recovery will significantly lower global emissions.


The technology’s disruptive impact on waste-heat recovery will reap large economic rewards for the U.S. Applying the technology to automotice exhaust could produce a 5% increase in efficiency that yields $20 billion annual savings in fuel expenditure.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Laurent Pilon
Project Contact:
Prof. Mahmoud Hussein
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Colorado School of Mines
National Institute of Standards and Technology

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