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Super Efficient Material Converts Car Exhaust to Energy



Your car engine wastes up to 75-percent of the power it generates -- but a team of Ohio State University researchers thinks it has found a way to capture a lot of that wasted energy and convert it into electricity.

The promise is in a new material they've developed, called thallium-doped lead telluride. (Isn't that a black diamond trail at a Colorado ski resort?) This is twice as efficient at converting heat to electricity as any previously developed material.

The research team's lead, Joseph Heremans, says the thallium-doped lead telluride can convert a car's wasted heat into energy without causing pollution. "The material does all the work. It produces electrical power just like conventional heat engines -- steam engines, gas or diesel engines -- that are coupled to electrical generators, but it uses electrons as the working fluids instead of water or gases, and makes electricity directly."

Some experts argue that only about 25-percent of the energy produced by a typical gasoline engine is used to move a car or power its accessories, and nearly 60-percent is lost through waste heat -- much of which escapes in engine exhaust. A thermoelectric (TE) device can capture some of that waste heat, Heremans said, and it would also make a practical addition to an automobile, because it has no moving parts to wear out or break down.

Heremans' team didn't just try random new types of metals or coatings for their research -- the team is also working on the nanotechnology and quantum level. "We hope to go much further. I think it should be quite possible to apply other lessons learned from thermoelectric nanotechnology to boost the rating by another factor of two -- that's what we're shooting for now," he said.

If Hereman's next announcement is for a flux capacitor (1.21 gigawatts!), we'll know we've crossed over from science advancement to science fiction. Either way, with rising fuel costs, we hope car makers take notice of Hereman's breakthrough. [Source: BetaNews]

Tags: car, waste

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