TECH

The World Is One Step Closer To Using Heat As An Electricity Source

'Over half of the energy we use is wasted.'

23/12/2016 11:32

Humans have moved one step closer to creating a device that could convert heat into a potential source of electricity.

In a world that relies so heavily on finite quantities of fossil fuels for our energy, alternative sources are increasingly important. 

Ohio State University

Now, a new study has made heat a more realistic solution, making the advances in solid-state thermodynamics required to turn the science fiction into reality. 

Many mechanical and electrical devices, such as car engines, produce waste heat as a byproduct of their normal operation.

Postdoctoral researcher Stephen Boona, at Ohio State University, said: “Over half of the energy we use is wasted and enters the atmosphere as heat.”

It is this 50% or more that the team are hoping to harness as a source of electricity.

To date, the devices have been too expensive, and not quite efficient enough to warrant widespread use.

But the recent research was able to create a thicker material – that more closely resembles what a future device would look like – to amplify the voltage output ten times or more. 

They’ve increased the output from a few nanovolts to tens or hundreds of nanovolts – meaning it can be readily scaled up for industry

While it is not yet part of a real world device, the team are confident that the proof-of-principle established by this study will inspire further research.

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