Thermoelectric Energy Harvester Embedded in Molten Metal

Smart bridges and other structures could be made with self-powered sensors embedded in them

3 min read

9 February 2012—Researchers in Germany have put a thermoelectric generator where no electronics have gone before: inside molten metal. The research is certain to appeal to manufacturers who hope someday to be able to plant tiny self-powered sensors inside metal parts during casting. The sensors could also find their way into gears and bearings exposed to large mechanical loads, in nuclear reactor walls to monitor possible radioactive leakage, or in the steel structures of bridges to track deterioration. But challenges remain, among them chip sizes that can affect the structural soundness of certain metal parts.

A team of scientists from the Institute for Microsensors, Microactuators and Microsystems at the University of Bremen, in Germany, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials came up with the embedding process, which can allow the thermoelectric generators to survive a dunk in molten aluminum and perhaps magnesium, brass, and bronze. The details of the process will be reported in an upcoming issue of IEEE Electron Device Letters.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

1 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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