Putting All that Wasted Heat to Work

by Michael Mullaney on January 10, 2012

Think about all of the heat produced by your car, your desktop, your laptop, your mobile phone, your TV, your Kindle, your PlayStation … and everything else. The heat is simply pushed out of the machine through a vent or exhaust, and it dissipates into the air. The wasted heat is a squandered opportunity. But a team of Rensselaer engineering researchers are looking to tackle this problem by capturing the waste heat, converting it into electricity, and using that electricity to help power the device in question. Makes perfect sense.

Check out the above video to hear Professor Ganpati Ramanath talk about his efforts toward this goal. With the help of colleagues Theo Borca-Tasciuc, Dick Siegel, and some genius Rensselaer students, he created a new way to make materials called thermoelectrics that can be used to convert heat into electricity—and vice versa. The new method results in thermoeletrics that are better, cheaper, and easier to make than similar stuff available in the marketplace. Sounds like a winner to me. The team published a new study today in the high-impact journal Nature Materials. Reach more about it here.

Along with making heat, thermoelectrics can be used to things cold. Ramanath has the vision of painting a room with these materials and making the entire room, in essence, an air conditioner that is partially powered by the hot air in the room. Using the same technology could dramatically trim the amount of power needed by one of the home’s biggest energy hogs—the refrigerator.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Via Europe 01.12.12 at 8:48 am

we are responsable for all of the heat in our houses, at work and even when we walk, drive. Nice ideea : an air conditioner that is partially powered by the hot air in the room

Spencer D 01.13.12 at 6:37 pm

Wow, all I can say is I love technology! What amazes me is the possibility of using thermoelectrics to cool air temperature. I can’t wait to have that in my computer case. Keep up the great work guys!

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