Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New nanotechnology development could result in new energy source

Scientist at Berkeley are working on a principle called the Seebeck effect that has the potential of transforming waste heat (like from a car engine) into electricity. This could be huge:
This press release reports that researchers at the University of California (UC), Berkeley in the U.S. have successfully generated electricity from heat by trapping organic molecules between metal nanoparticles," an achievement that "could pave the way toward the development of a new source of energy". The researchers' work is published in Science Express, an electronic publication of the journal Science. Scientists have tried for 50 years to build thermoelectric converters that would convert heat into electricity more efficiently than do current methods. Thermoelectric converters rely on the Seebeck effect, in which voltage is created when the junctions of two different metals are kept at different temperatures. So far, thermoelectric converters have only been made to operate at 7 percent efficiency, compared with the 20 percent efficiency rate of traditional heat engines. Such converters are also made using exotic, expensive metal alloys, making them too costly. The press release says that the UC Berkeley study marks the first time the Seebeck effect has been measured in an organic molecule. The research may "lay the groundwork" for the development of more cost-effective thermoelectric converters. UC Berkeley researcher and study co-author Rachel Segalman, explains that "The goal is to make things out of materials that are more abundant and more easily processed . . . Organics are cheap and can be processed easily." The next step for the researchers includes testing different organic molecules and metals, as well as fine-tuning the assembly of their thermoelectric converter. The press release can be viewed online at the link below.



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