Turning waste heat into electricity

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a small Utah company, Eneco Inc., say they have developed a technology that can efficiently and inexpensively transform waste heat into electricity. The researchers say their device is in a primitive stage at present, but a cheap and practical device could be ready for the market in two years.

  • While the heat generated by car engines and power plants usually does nothing but warm the surrounding air, scientists have long dreamed of building so-called thermoelectric devices that can capture wasted heat and convert part of it into electric power.

  • Such devices could significantly increase the electrical output of existing power plants or power the electrical systems of automobiles – replacing alternators and increasing fuel efficiency.

  • While current thermoelectric technology converts only about 10 percent of the heat it absorbs into electricity, the new device raises that to 17 percent.

  • The laws of physics dictate a maximum of about 50 percent – and the researchers think future devices might achieve more than half the maximum.

    Source: Kenneth Chang, A Practical Way to Make Power from Wasted Heat, New York Times, November 27, 2001.

    For text http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/27/technology/27HEAT.html?searchpv=nytToday
    For more on Alternative Energy http://www.ncpa.org/iss/ene/

    FMF Policy Bulletin\4 December 2001
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