Ultra-high thermal effusivity materials for resonant ambient thermal energy harvesting

Anton L. Cottrill, Albert Tianxiang Liu, Yuichiro Kunai, Volodymyr B. Koman, Amir Kaplan, Sayalee G. Mahajan, Pingwei Liu, Aubrey R. Toland, Michael S. Strano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Materials science has made progress in maximizing or minimizing the thermal conductivity of materials; however, the thermal effusivity—related to the product of conductivity and capacity—has received limited attention, despite its importance in the coupling of thermal energy to the environment. Herein, we design materials that maximize the thermal effusivity by impregnating copper and nickel foams with conformal, chemical-vapor-deposited graphene and octadecane as a phase change material. These materials are ideal for ambient energy harvesting in the form of what we call thermal resonators to generate persistent electrical power from thermal fluctuations over large ranges of frequencies. Theory and experiment demonstrate that the harvestable power for these devices is proportional to the thermal effusivity of the dominant thermal mass. To illustrate, we measure persistent energy harvesting from diurnal frequencies, extracting as high as 350 mV and 1.3 mW from approximately 10 °C diurnal temperature differences.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 14 2018
Externally publishedYes


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