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Nanotechnology could recover energy

April 17, 2012 at 7:24 PM   |   Comments

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., April 17 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a new technique could harvest energy from hot pipes or engine components to recover energy wasted in factories, power plants and cars.

Scientists at Purdue University say they've used nanotechnology techniques to coat glass fibers with a new "thermoelectric" material they developed.

When thermoelectric materials are heated on one side, electrons flow to the cooler side, generating an electrical current.

Fibers treated in this manner could be wrapped around industrial pipes in factories and power plants, as well as on car engines and automotive exhaust systems, to recapture much of the wasted energy, the researchers said.

The flexible fibers would conform to the irregular shapes of engines and exhaust pipes while using a small fraction of the material required for conventional thermoelectric devices, they said.

"The ugly truth is that 58 percent of the energy generated in the United States is wasted as heat," Yue Wu, a Purdue University professor of chemical engineering, said. "If we could get just 10 percent back that would allow us to reduce energy consumption and power plant emissions considerably."

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