Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Capturing Heat Energy

PostedDecember 4, 2011

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Anchor Lede: Wouldn’t it be great if we could re-capture some of the energy used on all those holiday lights? A newly engineered material may allow waste heat to be turned into energy at unprecedented efficiencies.

Randy Atkins: Put your hand on a light bulb and you’ll feel that, along with light, it produces a lot of wasted heat. Vinayak Dravid, of Northwestern University, says he can tap some of that. He helped engineer a material that becomes hot on one side and stays cool on the other…then turns that temperature difference into electricity.

Vinayak Dravid: Part of the light bulb could be hugged with this thermo-electrical material and then could be fed back into the electrical grid.

Randy Atkins: Dravid says the material’s unique chemistry allows electricity generation at ten to fifteen percent efficiency.

Vinayak Dravid: We are continuing to improve it further, but even at the 10 to 15 of waste heat converting back to useful energy, it is an absolute paradigm shift.

Randy Atkins: With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.

  • Read more about the development here