"Tomorrow's" Home Page Picture
- Hi All,
This post is about stuff that will hit the fan on some "tomorrow" a few years, or decades from now, when it will be possible to build R/C pop-pop boats that use thermoelectric generators, rather than batteries, to provide electrical current for their receivers and servos.
The photo on the left shows a HZ-2 TE module that uses bismuth telluride semiconductors for solid state conversion of heat to electricity and can produce about 2.5 watts at 3.3 volts. To get 10 watts at 12 volts directly, 4 modules could be used, or one module with a DC/DC converter could produce 12 volts of DC current. Don't rush out to buy this stuff now though, because there is better stuff in the pipeline.
A startup developing a new thermal energy conversion chip has reportedly caught the attention of PC manufacturers Dell and Apple Computer. Speaking at a conference in London recently, Eneco chief executive Lew Brown delivered a sales pitch to potential investors about a new solid state energy conversion/generation chip under development that will convert heat directly into electricity, according to Green Business News. The chip is reportedly based on the principles of thermionic energy conversion whereby the energy of a hot metal overcomes the electrostatic forces holding electrons to its surface, then passes those electrons across a vacuum to a cold metal and captures the resulting electronic charge.
According to the report, the primary obstacle that has thus far prevented the process from being exploited at a commercial level lies in creating the vacuum between the two metals. But Eneco in its marketing material claims to have overcome the issue by replacing the vacuum with "a properly selected semiconductor thermoelectric that is thick enough to support a significant temperature differential between the emitter and the collector in order to achieve efficiencies of practical interest". The company claims its chip, which can operate at temperatures of up to 600 degrees Celsius, can convert heat energy into electricity at an efficiency of between 20 and 30 percent. The company says it is already in talks with both Dell and Apple about how the chips could be used in their devices, the Green Business News reported. "Initial talks have focused on integrating the heat conversion chips into the device so it can harness the heat generated by processors and turn it into electricity to power fans or other cooling technologies. "Eneco says its striving to have its first products available by year or early in 2008.
Don't buy a Dell or Apple computer just to hack it for building a pop-pop boat because there is a "Power Chips" TEG that might deliver up to 70-80% of the maximum theoretical efficiency for heat engines. The company doesn't manufacture anything, but is seeking licensees and development partners for a number of specific applications of Power Chip technology that won't include pop-pop boats, of course. What eventually happens with "cutting-edge" products is that something newer and better comes along and the old stuff gets hacked for parts that hobbyists can use.
Go to <http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/beam/> to visit a group that uses motors and other components hacked from what were cutting edge products a few years back. The same thing will happen to the new TEGs. Don't hold your breath though, because it won't happen tomorrow.
ttfn: old Frank