08 January 2009

150 W/cm2? Energy from Waste Heat Revolution

Most of the energy from combustion processes such as an automobile's engine, is lost as heat. It seems a lot of waste to pump or dig fuels from the ground, only to lose most of the energy to the atmosphere as waste heat. Consequently, around the world engineers, scientists, and technologists are scrambling to find better ways to re-capture the huge mass of energy that is going missing every year.

Thermoelectrics is a growing and revolutionary method of redeeming waste heat to electricity -- analogous to photovoltaics except converting heat to electron flow rather than light. Brian Westenhaus brings us up to date on Nextreme Thermal, a company at the forefront of efficient thermoelectric conversion.
The thermoelectric field is gathering momentum and increasing efficiency. Many manufacturers are attending to this technology, as it requires no moving parts so the durability and miniaturization prospects look quite good.

For many heat producing power generation kits the excess heat is a nuisance, expensive to dispense with and money simply lost into things like rivers, the atmosphere and simply radiated away warming anything nearby which can be even more expense. From huge power installations generating electricity to automobiles thermoelectric on to microelectronics, thermoelectric conversion should find welcoming places. In the U.S. and Europe automakers from GM to BMW express enthusiasm for the technology to add to the electric output and reduce fuel requirements.

...The breakthrough product seems to be the Thermal Copper Pillar Bump (CPB) design that has applications in electronics where the technology can be used to cool and recover heat back into power. A highly desired goal is application in PC data centers where the operating costs for power to cool the electronics exceeds the power to process the data.

How good have they managed to get? A temperature difference of 60ºC has been achieved across the 60 µm (0.06 mm) high Nextreme CPB by running an electrical current through it. The Nextreme CPB demonstrated maximum power pumping capabilities exceeding 150 W/cm2. When subjected to heat the Nextreme CPB has demonstrated the capability to generate up to 10 mW of power per bump.

150 W/cm2 . . . That seems like a lot of power from a differential of 60ºC. Things are coming along faster than I had expected. _NewEnergyandFuel
Here is another look at the growing field of thermoelectrics, from Brian Wang.

More efficient retrieval and use of waste heat amounts to an energy revolution in its own right. Consider it but one more important piece in the puzzle problem to provide abundant energy to the growing needs of the future.

Cross posted at Al Fin Energy

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