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Energy Efficiency

Published on July 25th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz


New Technology Can Turn Heat Waste Into Electricity

July 25th, 2008 by  

Thermoelectric MaterialsGreat news on the power efficiency front: Scientists have invented a new material that can efficiently convert heat waste in cars, power generators, and heat pumps into electricity. The new material is thermoelectric, and can turn heat into energy without any pollution.

The invention, thallium-doped lead telluride, is twice as efficient as the second most efficient material used in thermoelectric power. The lead telluride creates electric power like a conventional heat engine coupled to an electric generator, but uses electrons as the working fluid instead of water or gas. Additionally, it creates electricity directly.

Most importantly, the material is most effective between 450 and 950° Fahrenheit. This is a typical temperature range for many power systems, including car engines.

Many experts argue that up to 60 percent of a gasoline engine’s energy is lost through waste heat, so a thermoelectric device using lead telluride would be a welcome addition to any car. Such devices have no moving parts; this means that wear and tear is virtually non-existent.

Research project leader Joseph Heremans of Ohio State University is optimistic about the future of thermoelectric nanotechnology—he hopes to boost the efficiency rating of the new material by a factor of two. For now, though, we can be content with the incredible new technology created by Heremans and team.

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Photo Credit: Vladimir Jovovic 


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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.

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