The revolutionary material that converts heat to energy is already being used on Mars

NASA's Perseverance uses a highly efficient patent. The revolutionary material that converts heat to energy is already being used on Mars.

The starting point might be this number: 65 percent. That's how much heat is lost to fossil fuels. Power plants, car factories and glass and brick industries, huge amounts of heat are lost during production processes. A real shame, if we consider that heat is, by definition, energy.

Elsewhere, the problem of heat reuse has already been solved. By elsewhere, we mean Mars. Yes, because Perseverance, NASA's rover currently on the Red Planet, is powered by a thermoelectric device, which converts heat into useful electricity from the surface exploration vehicle.

The heat source in question is the radioactive decay of plutonium, which gives the U.S. agency's robot a conversion rate of 4-5%, enough to allow operations to be carried out remotely. Earth is, of course, very different from the fourth planet in the Solar System, and in fact the application of the miraculous material encounters an order of far more complicated problems.

What is the revolutionary material that converts heat into electricity

A breakthrough may have come from a team of scientists at Northwestern University in the U.S. and Seoul National University in South Korea. The international team of researchers has developed a high-performance thermoelectric material that could result in interesting and efficient devices: it is purified tin selenide in polycrystalline form, which in overcoming the monocrystalline form converts heat into electricity, functioning as a thermoelectric material.

Polycrystalline tin selenide could be implemented for use in solid-state thermoelectric devices in a variety of industries, with potentially huge energy savings. "Thermoelectric devices are in use, but only in niche applications, such as in the Mars rover," explained Mercouri Kanatzidis, one of the authors of the study that appeared Aug. 2 in the scientific journal Nature Materials.

How the conversion device inspired by Perseverance, NASA's Mars rover, works

The potentially revolutionary new device contains the thermoelectric material exactly in the middle, between the hot and cold sides. Heat flows through the material through the middle and is converted into electricity, carried out of the device via wires.

In short, science is making steady progress on both the Blue and Red Planets: speaking of the latter, NASA has discovered what's at the center of Mars. And it currently shares the red and arid surface with another superpower: that's China, which sent its rover, just like the space agency.

Giuseppe Giordano