Saturday, January 26, 2008

Energy News

For some cutting edge developments in energy production that might be more environmentally friendly check this out. An initial discovery at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory has been able to produce electricity directly from a small temperature differential. What that means in less technical terms is that electrical power can be produced directly from waste heat where there is even a small temperature difference. The thing is, there is a lot of waste heat being produced all the time. From coal burning power plants to your car, the energy to move, to power your phone or lights or whatever comes from getting something very hot and then cooling it down. The temperature change from very hot to cool gets converted to electricity, or mechanical energy. But even the cool part of your cars engine or of a power plant is pretty damn hot. Currently, it is not efficient to try and extract useful energy from the remaining temperature difference so the heat is just lost. Radiated out into space ultimately. If the technology described in the article pans out (and I must say at this point that is a fairly large, but not huge, if. The results are very early, many problems will arise between now and any future application. We have no idea if they can all be solved) then we could produce energy from a great deal of the waste heat we are currently producing which would reduce the amount of coal or gas we would need to burn. Basically, we would be getting more out of the gas and coal we are currently burning so we could have the same amount of useful electricity, and drive the same amount, using less of the fossil fuels.

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