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— Science

New heat-harvesting material made in $40 microwave oven

Virtually all electrical devices and industrial processes create heat as they operate, which is typically wasted. In the past several years, various thermoelectric technologies have been developed to address that situation, by converting such heat into electricity. The ideal material for the purpose would be one that has a high electrical conductivity, but a low thermal conductivity – that way, it could carry plenty of electricity without losing efficiency through overheating. Unfortunately, electrical and thermal conductivity usually seem to go hand in hand. With some help from an ordinary microwave oven, however, researchers from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created a nanomaterial that appears to fit the bill. Read More
— Science

Timekeeping on a grand scale – the 10,000 Year Clock

When we hear about things being built to last, we usually think in terms of years or decades ... or maybe, centuries. But millennia? Well yes, if you’re talking about the 10,000 Year Clock. As its name implies, the 200 foot (61 meter)-tall timepiece is intended to run for 10,000 years, in a remote cave in West Texas. The clock’s “century hand” will advance one space every 100 years, although individuals who make the trek to the cave will be able to hear it chime once a day. The whole project is designed to get people thinking in the long term. Read More
— Aircraft

Self-powered sensors developed for monitoring aircraft integrity

Because structural integrity is so crucial to the safe operation of aircraft, their bodies are regularly inspected for signs of faults such as stress fractures. Some of these fractures can be virtually invisible to the human eye, so scientists are looking into the use of permanently-installed sensors, that would continuously provide information on the state of various parts of the aircraft. Given that one commercial airliner could potentially utilize hundreds of these sensors, however, running wiring to all of them could get quite complex. Using battery-operated sensors is one option, although ground crews would be constantly checking and changing batteries, plus it would be wasteful. Researchers from EADS Germany and the Vienna Institute of Technology now think they might have a better alternative – self-powered sensors that wirelessly transmit data. Read More
— Science Feature

Voyager spacecraft head for interstellar space

The last time we checked on the Voyager 1 & 2 they were hurtling towards the edge of the solar system at over 37,000 mph (60,000 km/h). The car-sized spacecraft are now and incredible 11 billion miles (17 billion km) and 8 billion miles (14 billion km) from Earth respectively – they are the longest continuously operated spacecraft in deep space and having traveled further than any man-made object, they will soon become the first to enter the realm of interstellar space. NASA recently held a briefing on the achievements of the program which gives us the opportunity to ponder where the Voyagers are, where they are going and the amazing scientific discoveries realized so far in their 33 year journey. Read More
— Wearable Electronics

Solar Soldier system to take the weight off infantry soldiers

If you’ve ever removed the battery from a laptop, then you will know that it constitutes quite a large percentage of the total weight of the computer. Well, if you think you’ve got it tough lugging that laptop battery around, consider the plight of infantry soldiers – they have to carry multiple batteries to power devices such as weapons, radios, and GPS equipment, and they have to do so for hours at a time, often under very harsh conditions. Attempts to lighten the 45 to 70 kg (99 to 154 lb) loads typically carried by soldiers currently include the use of fuel cells, li-ion batteries woven into their clothing, and autonomous pack horse-like vehicles. Now, UK researchers are adding their two pence-worth, by developing wearable solar and thermoelectric power systems. Read More
— Science

Researchers create material to more efficiently harness waste heat

Thermoelectric materials offer the potential to harness electricity from otherwise wasted heat. Continuing research in the field could yield applications scavenging energy from vehicle exhaust systems, industrial processes and equipment, and even sunlight. Now researchers have created a material with a higher energy conversion efficiency that could make such systems more feasible. Read More
— Automotive

Yet another automotive gas-electric hybrid technology looms

The energy crisis has certainly catalyzed a great deal of thought about how we harvest all that energy we previously wasted. The petroleum-burning internal combustion engine has traditionally leaked energy from the exhaust system in the form of heat, but new ThermoElectric Generator (TEG) research at Purdue University aims to yield as much as a ten percent reduction in fuel consumption by converting heat from the exhaust into electricity. It is hoped that the thermoelectric research will eventually lead to other methods of turning waste heat into electricity in homes and power plants, new and more efficient solar cells and perhaps even a solid-state refrigerator. Read More
— Electronics

Putting waste heat from electronics to good use

Researchers at two different institutions have recently announced the development of technologies for converting waste heat from electronics into something useful. At the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), they’ve created a silicon nanomesh film that could collect heat from electric appliances such as computers or refrigerators and convert it to electricity. Meanwhile, their colleagues at Ohio State University (OSU) have been working with a semiconducting material that has the capacity to turn waste heat from computers into additional processing power. Read More
— Mobile Technology

Thermoelectric boots charge your mobile phone

European Telco Orange is showing off an interesting phone charging prototype – a set of Wellington Boots with a ‘power generating sole’ that converts heat from your feet into electrical power to charge your battery-powered handhelds. You'll need to walk for twelve hours in your “Orange Power Wellies” to get an hour of battery life but we still think it's remarkable that such significant amounts of energy can be harvested from normal human activity. In order to decrease the length of time you need to charge your phone, try dancing or running, because the hotter your feet get, the more energy you produce. Read More