According to a press release from University of Texas at Dallas, carbon nanotube electrodes could be used for generating thermoelectrical energy from heat discarded by chemical plants, automobiles and solar cell farms. The study (PDF) was published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Nano Letters.
Harvesting wasted energy could potentially created clean energy and lower user costs.
Researchers claim the new thermocells use nanotube electrodes that provide a threefold increase in energy conversion efficiency over conventional electrodes. In the right setting, these thermocells could continuously generate electricity, instead of running down like a battery.
The thermocells take advantage of the electronic, mechanical, thermal and chemical properties of carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes’ giant surface area and unique electronic structure afforded by their small diameter and nearly one-dimensional structure offer high current densities, which enhance the output of electrical power and the efficiency of energy harvesting.
The research team estimates that multi-walled carbon nanotubes in large thermocells could eventually produce power at a cost of about $2.76 per watt from freely available waste energy.
On a smaller scale, thermocells could be used to power sensors or electronic circuits.