By Maggie Koerth-Baker at 8:06 am Tue, Mar 9, 2010
Thermocells based on carbon nanotubes (and, thus, cheaper and more efficient than the kind based on platinum) could help capture the wasted heat put off by everything from car exhaust pipes to power station generators, and turn it into electricity.
This is something that has played on my mind for years. Every time I’ve had to move my laptop off my lap or step my fans up, from overheating. Or when I’m in the kitchen cooking, all the heat just wafting upwards, warming the ceiling instead of heating (or refrigerating) other food.
All the heat exhausts/cooling-strategies we use in industry, all the engines needing to be cooled for efficiency. It’s such a waste, there has to be a better way.
I’ve often thought that we could create heat boxes in our homes, where the cooker/CPUs/washing machine/electronic-workings/water-boiler all live (all with stripped-down chassis for better heat transferrence) in an insulated box, with both direct and ambient heat-harvesters feeding the water-heater or rerouted back to the grid. Then you just send wires (or wireless) to a series of terminals around the house, for the different purposes you need.
I don’t suppose the energy harvested would be amazing, but the better the harvesting technologies get, the more incentive there will be to try.
I’ve been waiting for this exact energy solution for a long time. Wasted heat is a huge missed opportunity to create more power, cars generate incredible amounts of energy that isnt tapped. Also household electronics are guilty of this too, mostly TV’s (even plasmas and LCD’s) and computers.
I’m particularly interested in this technology to be applied on computers. Considering how much heat they output, it would only make sense to use it to produce more power.
I wonder how efficient a computer could be made using thermocells available nowadays? I did some online searching and didn’t find anything actually for sale, except some horse and dog blankets sold under the brand name Thermocell.
The article talks about a 60 degree C temperature difference; it would be hard to get that kind of differential in a computer application – at least without frying chips. Hopefully they work with a smaller differential!
Finally, politicians can earn their pay!
So much for my dream of using Sterling engines to generate power from waste heat.
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