SDK Develops High-Performance Element for Thermal Cells

Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) has developed a high-performance thermoelement, a key component of modules that convert heat energy directly into electric energy. The thermoelectric system is based on the development of voltage due to differences in temperature between the upper part and the lower part of a thermoelement. The thermoelectric system is being promoted at home and abroad as part of the comprehensive environmental protection and energy policy.

SDK’s newly developed thermoelement is based on a lanthanum-iron-antimony alloy.

SDK fully utilized its experience in rare earth sintered magnetic alloy technology and powder metallurgy in the development of the alloy. The new product has the following advantages:

  • The alloy uses lanthanum, which is readily available, while excluding the use of lead, tellurium or other hazardous materials.
  • A quench casting method, which enables continuous production, and crushing/sintering technologies are combined to produce highly efficient thermoelement.
  • Achieved equal or higher generation efficiency compared with conventional products that use lead and tellurium.
  • Usable at high temperatures up to 700°C. (The larger the temperature difference, the larger the amount of electricity generated.)
  • Lower raw material cost compared with conventional products that use lead and tellurium.
  • The existing rare earth magnetic alloy production process is used, enabling industrial production with costs lower than those of the conventional batch production system,

As heat source for the thermoelectric system, waste heat from industrial furnaces and incinerators can be utilized. Furthermore, small-scale unused waste heat from cogeneration units, hot-water heaters, and automotive exhaust gas as well as geothermal and solar energies could be used. SDK will begin commercial production of thermoelectric modules incorporating the new thermoelement in 2008, and expects to generate sales of ¥2 billion in 2010. The development of this innovative thermoelement will be announced at the annual meeting of the Thermoelectrics Society of Japan scheduled for tomorrow.

Under the ongoing medium-term consolidated business plan called the “Sprout Project,” SDK is allocating resources to the magnetic materials, which falls under the category of the strategic growth businesses. Together with the earlier announced electromagnetic absorption sheets, SDK will provide individualized products featuring interconnections of highly thermal conductive inorganic fillers and magnetic film formation technologies. SDK plans to sell ¥5 billion of magnetic materials in 2010.

For more information on lanthanum, click here.

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