SEP 23, 2019 6:37 PM PDT

New way to generate electricity from heat

Have you ever heard of paramagnons? Perhaps not, but they’re worth another look – at least that’s what researchers from The Ohio State University think. In a new study published in the journal Science Advances, an international group of scientists from Ohio State, North Carolina State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences reveal a novel way to generate energy from heat car exhaust, interplanetary space probes and industrial processes.

"Because of this discovery, we should be able to make more electrical energy out of heat than we do today," said study co-author Joseph Heremans, who is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and Ohio Eminent Scholar in Nanotechnology at The Ohio State University. "It's something that, until now, nobody thought was possible."

Researchers discover more efficient way of using heat to create electricity. Photo: Pixabay

So, where do paramagnons come into play? These tiny particles have magnetic flux that is crucial to the energy generation process. They work by spinning to produce a kind of energy called magnon-drag thermoelectricity, which scientists had previously thought was incapable of gathering energy at room temperature. But these researchers proved that wrong.

"The conventional wisdom was once that, if you have a paramagnet and you heat it up, nothing happens," Heremans said. "And we found that that is not true. What we found is a new way of designing thermoelectric semiconductors -- materials that convert heat to electricity. Conventional thermoelectrics that we've had over the last 20 years or so are too inefficient and give us too little energy, so they are not really in widespread use. This changes that understanding."

To convert heat to electricity, the team relied on the spin created by paramagnons, which is capable of pushing electrons – the key characteristic needed to harvest electricity. Previous lines of thought had disqualified paramagnons as energy-harvesters because it was believed that magnets lose their magnetic capabilities when they heat up. But it turns out that paramagnons are just different enough from magnets in that they only push the electrons only for a billionth of a millionth of a second, and therefore don’t heat up enough to lose their magnetism.

The researchers hope that this discovery will lead to more efficient energy generation from heat in the future for industrial processes, and car exhaust, for example. They plan to continue their investigations.

Sources: Science Daily, Science Advances

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 01, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Plastic-eating enzyme could prevent plastic waste world domination
MAY 01, 2022
Plastic-eating enzyme could prevent plastic waste world domination
Plastics are a part of our everyday lives, from food containers to soda bottles to soap dispensers to the life-saving ve ...
MAY 11, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Experience a Total Lunar Eclipse Over the Evening of Sunday, May 15th
MAY 11, 2022
Experience a Total Lunar Eclipse Over the Evening of Sunday, May 15th
For the first time in almost a full year, residents of Earth will be able to observe a total lunar eclipse – a per ...
MAY 13, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
How Do Bananas Ripen? The Dynamics of Spot Formation Reveal Secrets About Keeping the Fruit Fresh
MAY 13, 2022
How Do Bananas Ripen? The Dynamics of Spot Formation Reveal Secrets About Keeping the Fruit Fresh
A study out of Florida State University sets the foundation to reduce the 50 million tons of food waste per year linked ...
JUN 02, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Uncovering the Secrets Behind Aurorae on Mars
JUN 02, 2022
Uncovering the Secrets Behind Aurorae on Mars
Aurorae are a familiar phenomenon on our home planet, Earth. Better known as the “northern lights” – a ...
JUN 20, 2022
Earth & The Environment
How can beer yeast help reduce heavy metal contamination in water?
JUN 20, 2022
How can beer yeast help reduce heavy metal contamination in water?
Beer is a fantastic way to bring people of all backgrounds together, whether for a night on the town or watching sports. ...
JUN 26, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Humans, not nature, are responsible for over 90% of the world's oil spills
JUN 26, 2022
Humans, not nature, are responsible for over 90% of the world's oil spills
Oil slicks, or spills, are a type of marine pollution on the ocean surface resulting from spills from ships, oil and gas ...
Loading Comments...