Scientists turn heat into energy

Posted on Monday, Jun 18 2007 @ 05:22 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Scientists at the University of Utah have found a way to directly generate electricity from heat:
The team's so-called thermoacoustic prime mover consists of back-to-back heat exchangers with an intervening stack of materials tuned to a resonant acoustic frequency. When heat goes in, a resonant sound is generated and acoustically coupled to a piezoelectric transducer, which converts the sound into electricity.

The heat-driven electricity generator is an Army-funded project that aims to generate electricity while cooling radar systems. Symko's group, in cooperation with Washington State University and the University of Mississippi, is investigating methods to improve the efficiency of their heat-driven acoustically coupled electricity generators. Ultimately, the idea is to also directly convert solar heat into electricity.

So far the team has demonstrated only laboratory desktop prototypes, but their Army contract calls for a prototype electricity generator that harvests the waste heat from the university's hot-water plant next year, with the aim transferring that technology to cooling a real military radar the year after. The researchers estimate that it will take an additional two years to develop a model that harvests the sun's heat directly.
The scientists say the technology has lots of interesting applications. It can be used in small portable devices but it's also possible to use it to directly generate electricity from the heat in nuclear power plants without the giant steam turbines. More info at EE Times.

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Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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Re: Scientists turn heat into energy
by Anonymous on Monday, Jun 18 2007 @ 17:16 CEST
There are a number of new methods for generating electricity currently in play at the academic level. Of course, the big problem with many such items is transferring carefully controlled work into the public sphere.

If you'd like a realistic look at how a nuclear plant operates, see my insider novel "Rad Decision", available free at or in paperback. Endorsed by Stewart Brand, noted futurist and founder of "The Whole Earth Catalog". Thanks, James Aach