Researchers at Yale have developed a new technology that could make energy from the low-temperature wasted heat produced by industrial sources and power plants.

It's an idea that makes you go "Why on earth didn't I think of that?", and it's almost surprising it hasn't been done before. Waste heat is everywhere, and by definition, is almost completely untapped.

Initial estimates indicate that recoverable waste heat in the U.S. alone could power tens of millions of homes.

Although existing technologies can reuse high-temperature heat or convert it to electricity, it is difficult to efficiently extract energy from low-temperature heat waste due to the small temperature difference between the plant’s heat discharge and the surrounding environment.

Additionally, conventional systems are designed to target a specific temperature difference, so they’re less effective when there are fluctuations in the output of waste heat.

Researchers at Yale’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering have found that the key is a “nanobubble membrane” that traps tiny air bubbles within its pores when immersed in water.

Heating one side of the membrane causes water to evaporate, travel across the air gap, and condense on the opposite side of the membrane. This temperature-driven flow of water across the membrane is then directed to a turbine to generate electricity: a micro-scale steam turbine.

To prove the concept, the team built a small-scale system and demonstrated that the nanobubble membranes could produce pressurized flows of water and generate power even with heat fluctuations and temperature differences as small as 20 degrees Celsius — making it feasible for use with the wasted heat from industrial sources.

The findings were published online June 27 in the journal Nature Energy.

Related news & editorials

  1. 16.03.2018
    by      In
    The Omron S8VK-S series is billed as one of the world’s most compact DIN rail power supplies, and so is ideal for smaller control panels. The compact body size enables side-by-side mounting, which enhances design flexibility and reduces installation area by 30% compared with previous Omron power... Read More
  2. 16.03.2018
    by      In
    Rittal Australia has confirmed its national distribution partnership with APS Industrial, the newly formed specialist electrical industrial and automation equipment distributor.
    APS Industrial includes the existing businesses of Ramelec and HiTech – two well established Australian distributors,... Read More
  3. 15.03.2018
    by      In
    At just 6mm wide by 106mm high, the PTCB electronic circuit breaker from Phoenix Contact provides space saving circuit protection.
    The smart device protects 24V DC loads against overloads and short circuits. It can be used as a stand-alone circuit breaker or combined with the company’s Clipline DIN... Read More
  4. 15.03.2018
    by      In
    The Yawei Nisshinbo HPE Series from Applied Machinery is the latest in servo-driven Turret Punch Presses, providing high-end performance and power savings. 
    A technology partnership between Yawei and Nisshinbo to produce these CNC turret punch presses has been a massive success.
    Using German made... Read More