Body Heat May Charge Your iPod or Cellphone
Silicon Nanowires Could Power Devices Using Body Heat
Scientists believe to have made a break through discovery that could one day allow us to charge or power electrical devices such as cell phones, by converting body heat to electricity.
A team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California at Berkeley have been working with silicon nanowire-based converters and recently announced that they may have found a way to use to increase the conversion efficiency by a factor of 100.Using a process called electroless etching the scientist are able synthesize silicon nanowires in an aqueous solution on the surfaces of wafers. The technique involves the galvanic displacement of silicon through the reduction of silver ions on a wafer’s surface the team explain in their paper.
This technique of creating the nanowires results in vertically aligned wires that feature a rougher surface than normal nanowires. It is believed that the rough surface of the nanowires is to account for the high thermoelectric efficiency.
Arun Majumdar, a mechanical engineer and materials scientist with joint appointments at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, who was one of the principal investigators behind this research said,
“The rough surfaces are definitely playing a role in reducing the thermal conductivity of the silicon nanowires by a hundredfold, but at this time we don’t fully understand the physics. While we cannot say exactly why it works, we can say that the technique does work,”
Although the research is far from complete, it’s a big step in the right direction. Scientists are already planning ways to utilize this technology and help save energy resources.
“You can siphon electrical power from just about any situation in which heat is being given off, heat that is currently being wasted…
In fact, thermoelectric generators have already been used to convert body heat to power wrist watches.”
Practical uses for the technology are numerous ranging from cars that convert engine heat to power the cars electrics to personal power-jackets that use heat from body to power or recharge cell-phones and other electronic devices.
On a larger scale researchers also believe that thermoelectric modules could eventually be used in co-generating power with gas or steam turbines.
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