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Technical University of Munich honors research on thermoelectric materials

Professor Mercouri Kanatzidis awarded Wilhelm Manchot Professorship

Prof. Kai-Olaf Hinrichsen, Prof. Mercouri Kanatzidis, Prof. W.A. Herrmann, Prof. Thomas Fässler – Photo: Andreas Battenberg / TUM
Prof. Kai-Olaf Hinrichsen, Prof. Mercouri Kanatzidis, Prof. W.A. Herrmann, Prof. Thomas Fässler – Photo: Andreas Battenberg / TUM

The Chemistry department of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Jürgen Manchot Foundation have awarded the chemist, Professor Mercouri Kanatzidis, the 2015 Wilhelm Manchot Research Professorship. With this accolade, the TUM honors his pioneering work on thermoelectric materials.

Mercouri Kanatzidis, professor at the Northwestern University in Evanston and director of the Department of Materials Sciences at the Argonne National Laboratory (both Illinois, USA), brings together explorative inorganic synthesis chemistry and materials research. He places special focus on materials for energy conversion. In addition to new materials for photovoltaics, his investigations have brought forth the most effective thermoelectric materials known to this day.

Thermoelectric materials can convert heat into power. Thermoelectric machines require only a high temperature gradient between the hot and cold sides. They have no moving parts, run without a sound and are extremely reliable. So reliable that NASA equipped its Voyager probes with them. The probes were launched in 1977, have since left our solar system and are still operating.

For decades, however, low levels of efficiency were the rule. Thanks to the research of Professor Kanatzidis and his team, the best thermoelectric materials today achieve efficiency rates between 15 and 30 percent. Currently over 60 percent of the deployed primary energy is lost in the form of heat. High-performance thermoelectric materials, like the tin selenides developed in Kanatzidis’ working group, could recover part of that lost energy.

Mercouri Kanatzidis studied chemistry in Thessaloniki and wrote his doctoral thesis in the field of bioinorganic chemistry at the University of Iowa (USA). As a post-doc he did research at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the Northwestern University in Evanston. In 1987 he was called as assistant professor at Michigan State University and then in 1993 promoted to full professor. In 2006 he returned to Northwestern University and took over the Department of Materials Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory. Attesting to his great scientific productivity are over 900 publications, numerous patents and a number of high honors like last year’s ENI Renewable Energy Prize and this year’s ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry.

Manchot Research Professorship

Every year the Jürgen Manchot Foundation awards the Manchot Research Professorship to outstanding chemists. In addition to honoring the scientific work of the scientists, the foundation invites the award recipient to lecture at the Department of Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich. The prize commemorates the chemist Wilhelm Manchot (1869 – 1945), who was professor and director of the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry of the Technische Hochschule München (today TUM) from 1914 to 1935. Manchot’s merits in teaching were outstanding. He translated the venerable “Hollemann-Wiberg” into German – to this day a standard reference work well known to every student of chemistry.