In 2011 the University of Milano-Bicocca and Erg SpA founded the DeltaTi Research Consortium, entirely supported by ERG and aimed at the development of nanostructured silicon-based thermoelectric generators.
Although thermoelectricity was discovered in 1821, its use for the direct conversion of heat into electrical energy has found for more than a century a very limited industrial use because of its low conversion efficiency and the high costs of the most efficient thermoelectric materials.
Despite its technological limitations, the recovery of the low enthalpy heat opens interesting opportunities for the generation of electricity from wasted heat released both from the industrial plants and from buildings – and would allow significant improvements in the efficiency of thermal engines. In addition, integrated thermoelectric generators can supply electric power to miniaturized devices such as wireless sensors and other active components of the so-called Internet of Things; and of data networks of Industry 4.0.
Based on a new technological approach developed at the Department of Materials Science and protected by twelve international patents, thin films of nanostructured silicon were deployed as thermoelectric material for the production of high-efficiency and low-cost generators. The research and development activities of the consortium involved, further to the University of Milan-Bicocca, which coordinates its R&D, two institutes of the Italian National Research Council, the universities of Modena, Naples and Vienna, the Bruno Kessler Foundation (FBK) and the Demokritos Research Centre (Athens), with Altran as its technology consultant.
In 2015, after ending R&D at the laboratory scale, LFoundry entered the Consortium (after having collaborated with it as a contractor for a year) to proceed to the industrialization of integrated microgenerators obtained with planar technology. Technological development is currently at TRL 5.
Prof. Dario Narducci
Chief Technical Officer
tel. 02 6448 5137