Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

Circa June 2019, a group of researchers at Swansea University’s SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre made a 3D printable thermoelectric device that worked at an efficiency that had never been seen before. (Thermoelectricity refers to the conservation of heat into electricity and vice-versa.) In April 2014, a group of researchers at Northwestern University of Evaston, Illanois discovered that tin selenide (SnSe) (a compound comprising tin and selenium) converts heat into electricity at a level unlike any other material. (Selenium is a chemical element so rare it composes just 90 parts per billion in the Earth’s crust; it is mainly used in the making of electronics, pigments and glass.) However, SnSe is expensive to manufacture via conventional means, which also need a lot of energy. The researchers at Swansea university developed a significantly less expensive and 3D printable SnSe ink, as well as a 3D printing technique to make a thermoelectric device with it.

The team’s experiments measured the device as having a record figure of merit (ZT). (The term figure of merit can be defined as “a numerical quantity based on one or more characteristics of a system or device that represents a measure of efficiency or effectiveness.”) Their object gave a ZT value of circa 1.7; the previous best for a printed thermoelectric material was 1.0. This represents an efficiency rate of 9.5%, compared with 4.5% for the previous best. (SnSe has a ZT value of circa 2.6.)

The team hopes to have their device make electricity out of the waste heat UK industry produces, particularly the steel making industry, which generates unusually large amounts of waste heat. Multinational steel maker Tata Steel of Mumbai, India are supporting one of the team’s PhD researchers in investigating the technology’s industrial applications.

3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.

Disclaimer: Featured image of “Light bulb on green grass (Unsplash)” has been dedicated to the public domain by its author (known only as Ashes Sitoula awesome) under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.