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Researchers use nanotechnology to harvest energy from hot pipes

April 25, 2012
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University researchers are developing a technique that uses nanotechnology to harvest energy from hot pipes or engine components to potentially recover energy wasted in factories, power plants and cars.

"The ugly truth is that 58% of the energy generated in the United States is wasted as heat," said Yue Wu, a Purdue University assistant professor of chemical engineering. "If we could get just 10% back that would allow us to reduce energy consumption and power plant emissions considerably."

Researchers have coated glass fibers with a new "thermoelectric" material they developed. When thermoelectric materials are heated on one side electrons flow to the cooler side, generating an electrical current.

Coated fibers also could be used to create a solid-state cooling technology that does not require compressors and chemical refrigerants.

Findings were detailed in a research paper appearing last month in the journal Nano Letters. The paper was written by Daxin Liang, a former Purdue exchange student from Jilin University in China; Purdue graduate students Scott Finefrock and Haoran Yang; and Wu.

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