New device to harness wasted heat energy

Pyroelectric nanogenerato could help power various electronics

Scientists have developed a new device that could help harness the enormous amounts of energy wasted in the form of heat.

Known as the ‘pyroelectric nanogenerato’, the device primarily converts the waste heat into electricity. The technology works in a manner similar to how solar panels convert sunlight into electricity.

The development is the work of nanotechnologists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta. Led by Zhong Lin Wang, the researchers are focused on harvesting waste heat from sources such as computers, cars, long-distance electric transmission lines, etc.

The technology works around the ‘pyroelectric effect’, first described by the Greek philosopher Theophrastus in 314 B.C. Drawing their inspiration from the ancient philosopher, the scientists developed nanogenerators that can harness this effect. The nanogenerators are made up of micro-sized nanowires developed from Zinc oxide, which is a common additive in products such as paints, food, plastics and electronics, etc.

Numerous nanowires standing on end generate electricity when heated or cooled. The pyroelectric effect is the product of warming and cooling on certain materials that helps them generate electricity. For these materials, for instance tourmaline, warming and cooling rearranges their molecular structures resulting in an electron imbalance that generates an electric current.

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