Scientists have created thermocells, energy-efficient devices, that can harvest excess heat and convert it into renewable energy. They hope to create portable batteries that could be applied to many types of surfaces to harvest excess heat — including clothing to utilize heat from the human body as energy.
The group of 11 scientists who worked on this project published their study in the journal Renewable Energy. They are affiliated with The National University of Science and Technology in Moscow [NUST MISIS].
Thermoelectricity is the type of electricity that is generated by temperature differences, called temperature gradients. These are found everywhere, including around the human body. While this is an area of green energy with untapped potential, previously developed thermocells have a low output power.
But the scientists may have solved this problem. “We have shown the possibility of using a nickel oxide electrode based on hollow nickel microspheres in a thermocell,” said Igor Burmistrov, one of the study’s authors. “A record for aqueous electrolytes hypothetical Seebeck coefficient has been reached. In addition, we have found a nonlinear change in current-voltage characteristics, which is not typical for thermocells, which ensures an increase in the device’s efficiency.”
The new thermocell appears to potentially be a safe and cost-effective way to generate renewable energy. The scientists are exploring the possibility of one day using this technology to create a supercapacitator that would stay charged for a long period of time.
Even non-chemists who have a hard time grasping the exact process of how the thermocell works will immediately begin to ponder its applications. What if our body heat could power air conditioners? Could we charge our phones with body heat while we go for a run? The possibilities for a greener future are endless.
Image via Melk Hagelslag