Nat Commun 10 (1) 1093 [2019-03-06; online 2019-03-06]
Measuring temperature and heat flux is important for regulating any physical, chemical, and biological processes. Traditional thermopiles can provide accurate and stable temperature reading but they are based on brittle inorganic materials with low Seebeck coefficient, and are difficult to manufacture over large areas. Recently, polymer electrolytes have been proposed for thermoelectric applications because of their giant ionic Seebeck coefficient, high flexibility and ease of manufacturing. However, the materials reported to date have positive Seebeck coefficients, hampering the design of ultra-sensitive ionic thermopiles. Here we report an "ambipolar" ionic polymer gel with giant negative ionic Seebeck coefficient. The latter can be tuned from negative to positive by adjusting the gel composition. We show that the ion-polymer matrix interaction is crucial to control the sign and magnitude of the ionic Seebeck coefficient. The ambipolar gel can be easily screen printed, enabling large-area device manufacturing at low cost.