Turning Waste Heat Into Power

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Jackson Bellinger
“Turning Waste Heat into Power”
Physicists at the University of Arizona have discovered a way to convert waste heat back into useable electricity, using molecular thermoelectricity. In addition to making many machines much more efficient, molecular thermoelectricity would make CFC’s not needed. This new technology makes it possible to convert heat into energy with no moving parts, and no pollution whatsoever. Charles Stafford, the associate professor of physics at the University of Arizona, said that the thermoelectric voltage using their design to be about 100 times larger than what others have achieved in the lab. For a very long time, scientists have wanted to be able to decrease the energy that is lost in the form of heat, but many of the previous technologies were inefficient and very polluting. Bergfield and Stafford discovered this new way to convert heat into electricity when they studied polyphenyl ethers. Each polyphenyl ether molecule consists of a chain of benzene rings, which are built from carbon atoms. The chain of benzene rings act let electrons flow down them easily, but the benzene rings also act as forks in the electron river, splitting the electron flow into two. Bergfield designed the benzene ring circuit in a way that in one path the electrons are forced to travel a longer distance around the ring than the others. This causes the two electron flows to not be synched once they reunite upon reaching the far side of the benzene ring. Normally, the flows would cancel each other because of quantum interference, but when a heat is applied to one side of the benzene ring it interrupts the flow of electrons and leads to the buildup of voltage between the two electrodes. * Are there any significant downsides to this alternative? * How does the temperature difference affect the electron flow? * What makes the polyphenyl ethers such good conductors?

University of Arizona. "Turning Waste Heat Into Power." ScienceDaily 3...
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