The days of using bulky wires and electrical outlets to charge your electronics, and maybe even your electric car, could soon be over.
Design students in Denmark have come up with an idea to charge electronics resting on IKEA furniture, using the heat generated by a dinner plate or a cup of coffee. The idea, “Heat Harvest,” explains that a laptop uses about 40 watts of electricity, and emits just about the same amount of heat as it operates. The proposed technology would harvest that heat using an embedded pad in, say, a table. Then it would run that heat through a thermoelectric generator, and then energy would be pushed back into a wireless charging dock for a cell phone. The idea comes from IKEA’s Space10 research hub in Copenhagen.
Turn wasted heat from around your house back into electricity. That’s the simple yet clever idea behind Heat Harvest that Sergey Komardenkov and Vihanga Gore developed during a two-week workshop. Heat Harvest is a device that can either stand alone or be integrated into household items, such as tables, to capture wasted heat from our everyday objects and turn it into free, green electricity that can be reused at home. Source: Space10
Recent developments in nanotechnology may make this idea into reality sooner than we think. Thermoelectrics poses a problem because it needs a surface that can conduct electricity well, but at the same time won’t conduct heat very well — the reason being, the conversion process uses heat differences in a conductor in order to create voltage. It’s hard to get these materials — and they’re expensive — so thus far it’s been tough to implement this technology in consumer products. But thanks to nanotechnology, the thermal conductivity of semiconductors with good electrical properties can be lowered. Examples of nanoscale features with low thermal conductivity include particles, wires, or interfaces in bulk semiconductor materials.
In similar news, the U.K. is experimenting with a method that would allow electric and hybrid cars to charge as they drive on the road. According to a proposal by Highways England, power stations would be located on the side of the road, and they would charge coils installed both under the road and under the electric cars. The power stations would generate electricity, transfer it to the charging coils through cable, and then a wireless transfer occurs between the underground coils and the car.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is also researching this technology, as are U.S. universities such as North Carolina State (which contributed to the Highways England proposal) and Clemson. The U.S. Department of Energy has been working on this project for nearly three years.
In addition to automating the charging process and getting more electric/hybrid cars on the road, the technology could also provide ways for cars to detect other cars and hazards and therefore minimize the risk of crashes.