This image shows glass fibers coated with a thermoelectric material that generates electrical current when exposed to heat. The technology might be used to harvest energy from hot pipes or engine components, possibly representing a way to recover energy wasted in factories, power plants and cars. (Purdue University photo/Scott W. Finefrock)
... 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 percent 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 percent back that would allow us to reduce energy consumption and power plant emissions considerably."
Researchers have coated glass fibers with anew "thermoelectric" material they developed. When thermoelectric materials are heated on one side electrons flow to thecooler side, generating an electrical current.
Coated fibers also could be used to create a solid-state cooling technology that does notrequire compressors and chemical refrigerants. The fibers might be woven into a fabric to make cooling garments.
The glass fibers are dipped in a solution containing nanocrystals of lead telluride and then exposed to heat in a process calledannealing to fuse the crystals together.
Such fibers could be wrapped around industrial pipes in factories and power plants, as well as on car engines and automotive exhaust systems, to recapture much of the wasted energy. The "energy harvesting" technology might dramatically reduce how much heat is lost, Wu said.
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.