Steam power > Combustion > Jet engines > Advanced Thermoelectric > C
Date: Monday, July 28, 2008 @ 22:41:05 GMT
Topic: Science

Thermoelectrics using nanostructures offers the potential of getting very close to the carnot limit of efficiency using very light weight systems for convert heat to electricity. Early versions of thermoelectrics have been sold for many years but are being rapidly improved.

About 90 percent of the world’s power (approximately 10 TW) is generated by heat engines that convert heat to mechanical motion, which can then be converted to electricity when necessary. Such heat engines typically operate at 30-40 percent efficiency, such that ~ 15 TW of heat is lost to the environment.

To be competitive compared to current engines and refrigerators (efficiency 30-40 percent of Carnot limit), one must develop materials with ZT > 3. For the last 50 years, the ZT of materials has increased only marginally, from about 0.6 to 1, resulting in performance less than 10 percent of Carnot limit. There is no fundamental upper limit to ZT...

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