Chemists at Oregon State University have developed a new technology that uses thermoelectric materials which capture waste heat and convert them into electricity. The findings were published in Materials Research Bulletin.
Momentarily there is a lot of interest in new technologies that capture and convert this heat into electricity. It makes sense when you think that more than 60% of the energy produced by cars, machines and industry around the world is lost as waste heat. New methods of harnessing this heat and converting it into electricty seem to be popping up everywhere.
Thermoelectric power generation, researchers say, is a way to produce electricity from waste heat something as basic as the hot exhaust from an automobile, or the wasted heat given off by a whirring machine. Its been known of for decades but never really used other than in niche applications, because its too inefficient, costly and sometimes the materials needed are toxic. NASA has used some expensive and high-tech thermoelectric generators to produce electricity in outer space.
Now researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that the microwave also could play a crucial role in a new technology to improve energy efficiency. The microwave can be used to make a group of compounds called “skutterudites” that convert waste heat into power in mere minutes, instead of the days the existing process took, according to an Oregon statement. Most people know that you are not supposed to put metal in the microwave, because it will spark. But powder metals are different, when heated up 1,800 degrees for a few minutes, they produce promising results.
The research is being continued, it is believed that ultimately a range of different compounds may be needed for different applications of thermoelectric generation.