Direct Conversion of Heat to Electricity Using First-Order Phase Transformations in Ferroelectrics

Ashley Bucsek, William Nunn, Bharat Jalan, Richard D. James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


There is a growing and drastically underutilized abundance of energy stored on earth at small temperature difference, most familiarly in the form of low-grade waste heat. For the purpose of making use of this stockpile of energy, the direct conversion of heat to electricity is demonstrated using first-order phase transformations in lead-free BaTiO3 ferroelectrics. The thermodynamics of solid-state energy conversion using first-order phase transformations is investigated using a free-energy approach wherein the importance of the well-known Clausius-Clapeyron relation in opening up the mixed-phase region is discussed. A simple two-capacitor circuit is introduced to experimentally demonstrate the direct conversion of heat to electricity. By fluctuating the temperature by just ±5âC, current spikes of roughly 1 μA are sent back and forth across an electric load with no external battery attached. Finally, a supercritical ferroelectric Carnot cycle that would produce an energy density of 1.15 J/cm3 with a thermal efficiency of 15% is introduced, simulated, and compared with state-of-the-art pyroelectric energy-conversion methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number034043
JournalPhysical Review Applied
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 23 2019

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