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— Science

Scientists create inexpensive new thermoelectric material

Wherever there’s enough of a temperature gradient between two surfaces, thermoelectric materials can be used to generate an electric current. If a coat were made with thermoelectric felt, for instance, a current could be generated by exploiting the difference between the wearer’s body heat and the cold outdoor air. Now, scientists have developed an inexpensive new type of thermoelectric material, that could make the technology more commercially viable. Read More
— Science

Hybrid nanomaterial converts light and heat into electricity

We’ve seen nanomaterials that can be used to convert light into electricity and others that can convert heat into electricity. Now researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington and Louisana Tech University have created a hybrid nanomaterial that can do both. By pairing the material with microchips, the researchers say it could be used in self-powered sensors, low-power electronic devices, and biomedical implants. Read More
— Science

World’s most efficient thermoelectric material developed

Approximately 90 percent of the world’s electricity is generated by heat energy. Unfortunately, electricity generation systems operate at around 30 to 40 percent efficiency, meaning around two thirds of the energy input is lost as waste heat. Despite this, the inefficiency of current thermoelectric materials that can convert waste heat to electricity has meant their commercial use has been limited. Now researchers have developed a thermoelectric material they claim is the best in the world at converting waste heat into electricity, potentially providing a practical way to capture some of the energy that is currently lost. Read More
— Energy

New MIT chip harvests energy from three sources

The problem with depending on one source of power in the drive toward the battery-free operation of small biomedical devices, remote sensors and out-of-the-way gauges is that if the source is intermittent, not strong enough or runs out altogether, the device can stop working. A small MIT research team has developed a low-power chip design capable of simultaneously drawing power from photovoltaic, thermoelectric, and piezoelectric energy sources. The design also features novel dual-path architecture that allows it to run from either onboard energy storage or direct from its multiple power sources. Read More
— Science

Nanocrystal-coated fibers show promise for harvesting waste heat

Researchers at Purdue University in the U.S. have developed a new method of harvesting vast amounts of energy from waste heat. Using glass fibers dipped in a solution containing nanocrystals of lead telluride, the team led by Dr. Yue Wu is engineering a highly flexible thermoelectric system that generates electricity by gathering heat from water pipes and engine components. Read More
— Outdoors

PowerPot uses cooking heat to power campers' devices

Thermoelectric materials are able to generate an electrical current, via a temperature gradient within themselves. If thermoelectric fabric were used to make a jacket, for instance, the temperature difference between that garment’s cool exterior and warm interior might be enough to charge devices carried in its pockets. A current could also be generated by a vehicle’s thermoelectric exhaust pipe, due to its hot interior and the cool air surrounding it. Now, entrepreneurs David Toledo and Paul Slusser have developed a line of thermoelectric cooking pots, that use the heat of a fire to generate electricity when camping. Read More
— Science

Liquid-like compound could lead to better thermoelectric devices

Thermoelectric materials work by converting differences in temperature into electric voltage. If two parts of such a material experience significantly different temperatures, electrons within it will flow from the warmer part to the cooler, creating an electrical current in the process. Using these materials, electricity could be generated by the temperature differences on the inside and outside of jackets, within car engines, or even between the human body and the air around it ... just to list a few examples. An international team of scientists have now discovered that an existing material, which behaves like a liquid but isn't one, displays particularly impressive thermoelectric properties. Read More
— Electronics

Power Felt generates electricity from body heat

Some day, your jacket may be able to power your iPod ... and no, I’m not talking about piezoelectric fabrics (which generate electricity from movement-caused pressure), nor am I talking about photovoltaic materials, although both of those could probably do the job. Instead, your jacket might be made out of a new thermoelectric material called Power Felt, that converts temperature differences into electrical voltage – in the case of the jacket, the difference between its wind-cooled exterior and its body-warmed lining might be all that was needed. Read More
— Environment Feature

Feature: Small modular nuclear reactors - the future of energy?

This year is an historic one for nuclear power, with the first reactors winning U.S. government approval for construction since 1978. Some have seen the green lighting of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to be built in Georgia as the start of a revival of nuclear power in the West, but this may be a false dawn because of the problems besetting conventional reactors. It may be that when a new boom in nuclear power comes, it won't be led by giant gigawatt installations, but by batteries of small modular reactors (SMRs) with very different principles from those of previous generations. But though a technology of great diversity and potential, many obstacles stand in its path. Gizmag takes an in-depth look at the many forms of SMRs, their advantages, and the challenges they must overcome. Read More
— Good Thinking

Cryoscope gives users a feel for tomorrow's weather

Given that touch is generally the best way to determine how hot or cold something is - as long as it's not too hot or cold - Rob Godshaw has come up with a device that could provide a more immediately understandable representation of tomorrow's weather than the traditional abstract number coupled with simplified symbols seen on the nightly news. His invention is an aluminum cube called the Cryoscope that adds some haptic feedback to the daily weather forecast by letting users physically feel tomorrow's temperature - at least in their fingertips. Read More