Thermopower waves are a new concept for the direct conversion of chemical to electrical energy. A nanowire with large axial thermal diffusivity can accelerate a self-propagating reaction wave using a fuel coated along its length. The reaction wave drives electrical carriers in a thermopower wave, creating a high-power pulse of as much as 7 kW/kg in experiments using carbon nanotubes. We review nanomaterials designed to overcome limitations of thermoelectricity and explore the emerging scientific and practical outlook for devices using thermopower waves.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(10)70183-8