LG Innotek has developed a new concept semiconductor that can replace a compressor (cooler) for small refrigerators and water purifiers with its own technology. The product is a nano polycrystalline thermoelectric semiconductor based on particulate materials. If the new chip is mass-produced, it is expected to make dramatic improvements such as making small household appliances lighter and reducing noises from them.
LG Innotek has built a production line at its Gumi plant in South Gyeongsang Province to churn out the new chip in the first half of next year.
Thermoelectric semiconductors are innovative components that realize cooling and heating functions by supplying electricity and produce electricity using differences in temperature. When electricity is injected into a thermoelectric semiconductor, it uses the "Peltier effect" in which one side is heated and the other side is cooled, and the "Seebeck effect" in which power is generated by applying different temperatures to both sides.
LG Innotek's thermoelectric semiconductor was developed using nano polycrystalline materials developed by the company. Nano polycrystalline materials realized ultra-fine crystal structures in nanometer, which is one billionth of one meter. As a result, the strength and efficiency of conventional single crystal materials have been greatly improved.
"Thermoelectric semiconductors are able to reduce power consumption up to 30% by raising cooling efficiency 30% compared to a single crystal thermoelectric semiconductor module by applying its own module structure that minimizes thermal resistance,” an LG Innotek official said. “In particular, nano polycrystalline materials are more than 2.5 times stronger than monocrystalline materials so they can be applied to vehicles and ships whose materials are susceptible to breakage due to vibration."
LG Innotek plans to load thermoelectric semiconductors into small appliances such as refrigerators and water purifiers ahead of others. While conventional compressor-based mini refrigerators have a noise level of 29 decibels (dB), the application of thermoelectric semiconductors can lower their noise level to 19dB. 19dB is quieter than the noise level of studios at broadcasting station (20dB). In addition, it is possible to reduce the size and thickness of small appliances up to 40% compared with those loaded with compressors by loading thermoelectric semiconductor modules half the half size of a sheet of A4 paper in small appliances.
Thermoelectric semiconductors can also be used in the field of telecommunications. The application of thermoelectric semiconductors to telecommunication data transmission equipment such as optical transmitters and receivers can minimize data loss by keeping the temperature of optical communication parts constant. If optical communication parts are not maintained at a constant temperature, data transmission efficiency will be weakened due to wavelength changes and output reduction among others.
LG Innotek plans to use thermoelectric semiconductors in the fields of vehicles and ships. Fuel and carbon emissions can be reduced by transforming waste heat from fuel consumption in vehicles or ships into electricity and applying the electricity to thermoelectric semiconductors. For example, if fuel consumption is 18 km/liter for a 1600cc diesel vehicle, applying a thermoelectric semiconductor to the vehicle can elevate its fuel efficiency to 19.8 km/liter. This means that thermoelectric semiconductors can reduce fuel consumption 9% to 12%. Ships can also reduce CO2 emissions by using waste heat through the application of thermoelectric semiconductors.