Amazing new technology converts heat to electricity
Nov 21, 2006

IT Week reports on an amazing new technology under development by Eneco that promises to revolutionize modern electronics and many other things. The technology is a solid-state chip that uses thermionic energy conversion to generate electricity from a temperature gradient with an efficiency as high as 30%. If successful, and they're already in talks with both Apple and Dell, this could mean big things. For example, as we all know, computers generate a lot of heat. This is one of the primary factors limiting the size of laptops; the smaller they are, the harder it is to keep them cool. But with a technology like this, that heat is no longer such a bad thing because, in the process of passively cooling the electronics, electricity is being generated that can then be contributed to active cooling or any other purpose increasing battery life. There are also plans by which this technology could replace batteries all together. By using these chips in combination with a small burner, electronics could be powered in an efficient and environmentally friendly way by burning fuels such as ethanol. Obviously, a technology such as this has all sorts of applications. Any process that generates waste heat (which would be almost everything we do) could now also generate electricity. A suggested application is replacing the alternators in cars by using these chips to generate electricity from the heat of the engine. This would have the benefit of aiding in cooling the engine as well as improving gas mileage as there would no longer be any horsepower being wasted on spinning the alternator. I'm left to wonder if the human body generates enough heat externally for these chips to be incorporated into clothing.
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