Scientists led by Karsten Held of the Institute of Solid State Physics at the Vienna University of Technology analyzed the material using quantum-physical computer simulations. They showed that the high level of thermal power of iron-antimony (FeSb2) was related to small-scale irregularities in the material, for example additional iron atoms.
"After being able to understand the mechanism, we hope that we will be able to generate similarly high levels of thermal power in other materials“, Held said. The thermoelectric effect also functions in the opposite direction. With a suitable material one can generate temperature differences on the basis of electric power, and thus have a cooling effect without a cooling liquid and pumps, for example like those found in refrigerators.