SEP 23, 2019 06:37 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
  • 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
DEC 10, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 10, 2019
Survey says coastal homeowners are not preparing for climate change
New research from the University of Notre Dame takes a psychological look at how our beliefs don’t always line up with our actions – in this ca...
DEC 10, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 10, 2019
Yale Scientists Solve Mass Extinction Mystery
Scientists from Yale University have solved a mystery that has plagued scientists for decades. It’s well established that 66 million years ago, a mas...
DEC 10, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 10, 2019
Dolphins Utilize Physics and Shorelines to Hunt for Prey
Bottlenose dolphins are known for their intelligence, and their behavior in the natural habitat never fails to amaze even the most invested of marine anima...
DEC 10, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 10, 2019
Air pollution moving across state lines affects some groups more than others
Have you ever heard about fine particulate matter air pollution? If not, it’s time you do, because it is literally all around you. Fine particulate m...
DEC 10, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 10, 2019
Let's use grape skins to deice our roads
Large parts of the country are getting hit with the first big snowstorm of the year this week and if you travel the roads, you ought to be concerned &ndash...
DEC 10, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 10, 2019
New method to measure carbon emissions from rain forests
Researchers from the Arizona State University Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science (GDCS) have developed a new system capable of monitoring...
Loading Comments...