Nanocrystal-coated Fibers Might Reduce Wasted Energy
Summary posted by Meridian on 4/19/2012
Source: Purdue University (17 April 2012)
Author(s): Emil Venere
Researchers at Purdue University, United States, have coated glass fibers in a solution containing nanocrystals of lead telluride, creating a new “thermoelectric” material that could harvest energy from hot pipes or engine components to potentially recover wasted energy in factories, power plants and cars. Yue Wu, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, said, "The ugly truth is that 58 percent of the energy generated in the United States is wasted as heat. If we could get just 10 percent back that would allow us to reduce energy consumption and power plant emissions considerably." The fibers created by the Purdue team could be wrapped around industrial pipes in factories, power plants, and automotive exhaust systems or car engines. Thermoelectric materials, when heated on one side, cause electrons to flow to the cooler side, thereby generating an electrical current. Wu adds that this “energy harvesting” technology could dramatically reduce how much heat is lost. Alternatively, the coated fibers could be used to create a solid-state cooling technology that does not require compressors and chemical refrigerants. The researchers are exploring using other materials instead of lead and tellurium, which are toxic. "Of course, the fact that our process uses such a small quantity of material – a layer only 300 nanometers thick – minimizes the toxicity issue," Wu said. "However, we also are concentrating on materials that are non-toxic and abundant." The team’s findings were published in the journal Nano Letters.
The original article may still be available at http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2012/120417WuEngergy.html