Thermoelectric Materials Based on Tetrahedrite Structure for the Thermoelectric Devices




Growing concern with energy independence and sustainability has initiated research into methods that can help to increase energy efficiency. One method, thermoelectric devices, converts waste heat from current processes into energy. These devices take advantage of a temperature gradient across the device, creating a voltage from the temperature difference. The materials that produce thermoelectric devices with the highest figure of merit, or ability to produce thermoelectric power, require rare or toxic materials (e.g. Te, Ag, Co, Pb). This prevents thermoelectric from being used in large-scale applications. If thermoelectrics are to be used in larger settings, new materials are needed that are inexpensive, safe and are composed of earth-abundant metals.


Description of Technology


This technology is a set of compounds based upon natural tetrahedrite structures that can be used for thermoelectric devices. Tetrahedrite is a copper antimony sulfosalt that is globally available and in abundance near hydrothermally active sites. The tetrahedrite is milled and doped to create desired thermoelectric properties, most importantly a high figure of merit.


Key Benefits

  • Performance: The performance of this material is comparable to the expensive, toxic materials previously used for thermoelectrics
  • Safe: Does not require toxic elements such as Te, Co and Pb
  • Cost Reduction: Utilizes cheap waste products as a base material instead of purified elements with an expensive manufacturing process
  • Fast Production: Without extensive purification processes, this material can be made in hours, instead of weeks, as previously required



  • Thermoelectric Devices
  • Waste Heat Sources
    • Automotive
    • Electric Power Generation
    • Oil and Gas Pipelines


Patent Status


Patent Application Filed: US2013/049,350




Donald Morelli, Xu Lu, Vidvuds Ozolins


Tech ID




Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Raymond Devito
Technology Manager
Michigan State University