In today’s power plants, more than half of the heat generated is wasted, which is lowering the energy efficiency drastically. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S industries utilize one third of all energy resources available in the country. If the waste heat is captured and reused as a way to generate electricity, the facility energy efficiency can be improved up to 50 percent. For the purpose, scientists already came up with a new method few years ago. The idea was to use thermoelectric materials to generate electricity from low temperature changes. This method was however very expensive as compared to the efficiency it provides.
Last week, researchers at MIT and Stanford have proposed an alternative method for harnessing the waste heat and converting it to electrical energy. According to this method, an uncharged battery is heated with the waste heat; while it is still warm, an external voltage is applied. When the battery is fully charged, it is allowed to cool down and as observed by scientists, the decrease in temperature increases the energy produced. The new energy produced is far greater than that used for charging the battery.
This new technology is an initial step at harnessing the waste heat. It still requires a lot of research in terms of long term reliability and reducing the battery’s charge-discharge time.
Peidong Yang, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley defined the research as a clever idea for reuse of low grade waste heat. It makes a promising research direction and also creates room for further innovation.
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