GMZ Energy, a startup developing direct heat-to-electricity conversion technology based on an advanced nanotechnology process, has secured secured $14 million in Series C financing. GMZ Energy is developing its first product for the $8 billion residential, commercial and industrial solar thermal water market. The product would integrate its thermoelectric material directly into conventional solar hot water collectors, enabling the production of electricity in addition to heat and hot water.
Thermoelectric materials and technology have powered spacecraft for decades. Currently, thermoelectric generators (TEGs) are about 5% efficient. However, advancements in thin-film and quantum well technologies could increase efficiency up to 15% in the future. The process, known as the Seebeck effect, was discovered in 1821 by Thomas Johann Seebeck. A related phenomenon observed in all thermoelectric materials is known as the Peltier effect. The Peltier effect can be utilized for solid-state heating or cooling with no moving parts.
Aaron Bent, CEO of GMZ Energy says:
“Thermoelectric materials have typically been used for niche heating and cooling applications, but we have developed a way to enhance the material’s performance to enable more applications.”
Earlier this year, in February 2011, Ames Laboratory, a government-owned, contractor-operated research facility of the U.S. Department of Energy run by Iowa State University, had announced a breakthrough – 25% improvement in the ability of a key material to convert heat into electrical energy. Ames Laboratory researchers found that adding just one percent of the rare-earth elements cerium or ytterbium to a TAGS material was sufficient to boost its performance.