By one official estimate, American manufacturing, transportation, residential and commercial consumers use only about 40 percent of the energy they draw on, wasting 60 percent. Very often, this wasted energy escapes as heat, or thermal energy, from inefficient technology that fails to harvest that potential power.
Now a team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst led by chemist Dhandapani Venkataraman, “DV,” and electrical engineer Zlatan Aksamija, report this month in Nature Communications on an advance they outline toward more efficient, cheaper, polymer-based harvest of heat energy.
“It will be a surprise to the field,” DV predicts, “it gives us another key variable we can alter to improve the thermo-electric efficiency of polymers. This should make us, and others, look at polymer thermo-electrics in a new light.”
Aksamija explains, “Using polymers to convert thermal energy to electricity by harvesting waste heat has seen an uptick in interest in recent years. Waste heat represents both a problem but also a resource; the more heat your process wastes, the less efficient it is.” Harvesting waste heat is less difficult when there is a local, high-temperature gradient source to work with, he adds, such as a high-grade heat source like a power plant.
Read full article at the UMass News Office