Thermoelectrics is considered to be a promising technology for utilizing otherwise lost waste heat to generate electricity and is thus important in terms of energy and environmental policy as part of the current research program for energy efficiency.
Waste heat is generated in all areas of daily life, in industry, households and transport. In Germany alone, this adds up to a waste heat potential of 300 TWh per year, which in 2016 corresponded to almost half of the total energy consumption of German industry.
The most important market and technology driver is currently waste heat recovery for decentralized heating and cooling in the industrial sector and in automotive applications. The most important growth markets for thermoelectrics are high-performance electronics (battery cooling), rapid temperature stabilization and energy-autonomous actuators and sensors.
Heat pumps or refrigeration systems based on magnetocaloric materials offer decisive advantages over established technologies: they do not contain any refrigerants that are harmful to the climate and health, have 20-30% higher efficiencies, enable low-noise operation and do not require any parts that are susceptible to wear. Magnetocalorics is thus considered one of the most promising future technologies for air conditioning.
In order to industrialize the technologies, challenges such as raw material availability, price stability, eco- and human-toxicology, RoHS limitations, competing technologies for identical raw materials, as well as recycling possibilities for the recovery of raw materials have to be overcome.