23/12/2016 11:32 GMT

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

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

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.