Every year, around 60 percent of the energy produced in the United States is wasted. With a heavy reliance on traditional combustion cycles and the burning of fossil fuels, an astronomical amount of potentially usable energy dissipates into the environment as waste. However, there may be a way to harvest that waste energy without drastically changing the energy infrastructure.
Jaeho Lee, assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine and ECS member, recently presented a paper at the 228th ECS Meeting on the thermal transport in nanostructures targeting the applications of thermoelectric energy conversion. This innovative technology has the potential to be applied to the current energy infrastructure in an effort to harvest a percentage of the wasted energy.
“Thermoelectrics could allow us to harvest waste heat in any form,” says Lee. “We could talk about large-scale waste heat from factory combustion cycles, but it could also be as small as something we generate from our bodies.”
Thermal energies exist everywhere. By harvesting waste energy, researchers are taking a complementary step toward a more sustainable energy infrastructure.
“Globally, we’re consuming a lot of energy,” says Lee. “The world population is continuously increasing. Not only that, our energy consumption rate is increasing.”