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Thermoelectric Materials Development for Space Applications

A collaboration between Swansea University and the European Space Agency (ESA)


Themoelectric module with doped n and p type sections and  separators S.

 Themoelectric module with doped n and p type sections and  separators S.



Thermoelectrics are reliable technologies with no moving parts, allowing them to function as renewable power sources for both space and terrestrial applications. Thermoelectrics rely on the phenomena by which thermal energy is converted directly into electrical energy through a phenomenon known as the Seebeck effect. To be economically viable and sustainable they must be sourced from earth abundant materials and feature a robust design for long lifespan. Of the thermoelectric base materials, Silicides are the most promising, and innovative manufacturing methods have the potential to produce cheap, reliable and efficient devices. 

These technologies have potential for other industries where heat loss could be converted to electricity to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Such industries include automotive, power generation and primary materials manufacturers .




The aim of the project is to develop advanced materials production and scaling methodologies to create novel Silicide thermoelectric materials for space applications, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). After successful terrestrial demonstration, prototype devices will be tested on the Columbus Spacecraft (ISS).


Principal Investigator
Associate Prof James Sullivan

T:+44 (0)1792 602495

PhD Student: Mr Thomas Dunlop

Associate Prof James Sullivan Image Associate Prof James Sullivan Image

Jim's research focuses on the links between microstructure and the corrosion behaviour of materials with a particular interest in zinc alloys for galvanic protection. He has developed a novel time lapse imaging technique that can visualise corrosion mechanisms and preferential phase attack of microstructures in-situ under electrolyte films. The work was presented at the prestigious Gordon Research Conference on aqueous corrosion in 2012 and is published in Corrosion Science.

European Space Agency (ESA)
Dr Dave Penney
Dr Nick Lavery