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Researchers use batteries to capture and convert heat energy


Researchers Seok Woo Lee ‘09 Ph.D. ‘11 and Yi Cui from Stanford and Yuan Yang and Gang Chen from MIT have found a new battery technology that captures waste heat and converts it into electricity, a finding which was published in the journal Nature Communications last week.

In the past, scientists focused on thermoelectric devices, solid-state materials that can produce electricity from a temperature gradient, to harness waste heat.

However, these researchers found an alternative for low-temperature waste-heat conversion into electricity, utilizing a scientific principle known as the thermogalvanic effect which states that the voltage of a rechargeable battery is dependent on temperature.

According to Lee, the technique is to subject a battery to a four-step process: heating up, charging, cooling down and discharging.

“The results are very promising,” commented Peidong Yang, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. “By exploring the thermogalvanic effect, [the MIT and Stanford researchers] were able to convert low-grade heat to electricity with decent efficiency.”

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Peter is currently a deputy desk editor and a freshman majoring in economics (anticipated). He enjoys soccer, basketball, and fitness.