This could be really cool, if it's true...
For a long long time now, I've been asking people (any one who has the unfortunate luck to get me rambling about my hair brained pseudo-scientific daydreams), "Why don't we hear more about crazy inventors trying to capture and reuse some of the waste heat that nearly every human activity and technology produces?!" I've always gotten answers like "... well, in this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!". Well, Borealis Exploration Limited, seems to think this concept isn't so crazy. I read this on the Internet so that mean it's true :P
Power Chips plc: "Power Chips™, which use thermionics to convert heat directly into electricity, will be one of the first industrial applications of nanotechnology. These small, solid-state devices promise to improve current power generation and waste heat recovery techniques. Power Chips will deliver up to 70-80% of the maximum (Carnot) theoretical efficiency for heat pumps (conventional power generation equipment operates at up to 40% Carnot efficiency).
Power Chips plc has devised 'Power Chips' which generate electricity by using heat to move electrons from one side of a vacuum diode to the other. The system, currently under development, contains no moving parts or motors and can be either miniaturized or scaled to very large sizes for use in a variety of applications. Whether it is to recover energy from the waste heat of traditional engines and turbines, or to replace them completely with a compact and efficient solid-state system, Power Chips present product engineers and project managers with a broad array of design options.
We are actively seeking licensees and development partners for a number of specific applications of Power Chip technology. Our current development efforts are centered around increasing power density of research prototypes and refining manufacturing processes to complete production prototypes.
More detailed information on Power Chips can be found by reviewing our patent portfolio in the Technology section of this site. If you have specific questions about your potential application for Power Chips, feel free to contact us."
I also wonder about the net amount of waste heat produced by human activity: car engines, air conditioners, camp fires, jet engines, leaving my Dad's back door open in winter, passing gas, and patio heaters, that many Calgarian night clubs use in an attempt to (again, to my Father's horror) "heat the outdoors!"
It's all gotta add up to something and I'll bet someone is gonna crunch some numbers and do the math sometime soon, in light of all the recent environmental awareness that seems to be suddenly newsworthy.