Over the years, many researchers have sought to convert heat to electricity directly, without benefit of turbine or generator. Now, professor Peter Hagelstein of MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, working with Yan Kucherov of ENECO Inc., reports a device based on semiconductor technology that achieves this goal. Their approach builds on earlier thermionic "vacuum gap" design where electrons boil off a cathode, traverse the gap, and are absorbed into a colder anode, to convert heat to electricity. However, operating temperatures greater than 1,000C limited the usefulness of such scenarios. The new strategy improves performance by replacing the traditional vacuum gap with a multi-layer semiconductor structure. These solid-state conversion devices operate between 200 and 450C–typical temperatures for waste heat recovery. Hagelstein suggests that captured heat lost through automobile engine exhaust might be converted into electricity. The researchers' work has been sponsored by ENECO and DARPA. Patents have been applied for in the U.S. and Europe. For more information, contact Elizabeth Thomson at the MIT News Office, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that devices, gadgets, and appliances we use every day will be able to communicate with one another. This potential is not limited to household items or smartphones, but also things we find in our yard and garden, as evidenced by a recent challenge from the element14 design community.
If you didn't realize that PowerPoint presentations are inherently hilarious, you have to see Don McMillan take one apart. McMillan -- aka the Technically Funny Comic -- worked for 10 years as an engineer before he switched to stand-up comedy.
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