Sep 27, 2002
Power Chips to boost geothermal power and car engines
Power Chips of Gibraltar has announced that its Power Chips devices could help geothermal power plants become both more productive and widespread. The chips use quantum mechanical electron tunnelling to convert heat into electricity.
"We are actively seeking partners to bring this product to market," said Sean Kilgrow of Power Chips. "We look forward to working with members of the geothermal community to make this clean, renewable power source the preferred choice of power production in the geothermal industry."
Geothermal power plants convert the thermal energy from water and/or steam heated by the high temperatures beneath the surface of the earth into electrical power. Power Chips claims that its devices could make lower temperature geothermal resources a viable target for exploration. The company also says that the Power Chips could enhance output and reduce the cost per kilowatt at existing plants.
Power Chips devices convert heat into electricity by the thermotunnelling effect, which uses quantum mechanical electron tunnelling phenomena. High energy (or hot) electrons travel between electrodes that are spaced less than 20 nm apart to create a useable electric current.
The devices could also see applications in car engines - Power Chips claims that they may be able to increase an engine's effective power output by 75%. Typically, less than 15% of the energy in a litre of petrol reaches the wheels of a car, with most of the rest becoming heat.
According to the company, putting a panel of Power Chips against the radiator of a car could generate 8.7 kW of electrical energy, while devices wrapped around the exhaust pipe could produce 68 kW. That could allow designers to focus more of the engine's power on mechanical output rather than generating electricity for ancillary systems, such as air-conditioning or entertainment.
"If Power Chips devices realize their potential, they will be able to replace the alternator, power all auxiliary loads electrically (including climate control) and add significant shaft power to an automobile with an electric-assist drivetrain," Power Chips said in a recent paper. "The devices are designed to achieve this goal for less than $20 per kilowatt capacity, which is highly competitive with all alternator systems, but with no additional fuel cost for the energy generated."
Power Chips is a majority-owned subsidiary of Borealis Exploration Limited. Fellow Borealis subsidiary Cool Chips plans to use devices employing quantum mechanical electron tunnelling in cooling systems.
About the author
Liz Kalaugher is editor of nanotechweb.org.