World News

Industry news and insights from Europe and around the World

UK News

Latest news and developments in the United Kingdom

Products

Keep up-to-date with the latest new products and technology

Features

General articles, applications and industry analysis

Researchers use latent heat to generate electricity

JAPAN: Researchers at the University of Tokyo claim to have generated electricity from latent heat, an achievement which, it is said, advances the possibilities of thermoelectric conversion and thermocells. 

With this technology, currently wasted latent heat could instead be used to enable devices to create their own energy while cooling themselves down, reducing the reliance on other energy sources.

The University of Tokyo team created its own thermocell using a hydrogel — a water-rich polymer material — called PNIPAM, which they modified with a compound called viologen. This modified hydrogel contained a thermo-responsive polymer, meaning that the polymer reacted to temperature change, in this case being soluble in cool water but insoluble in hot water. With this thermocell, they were successfully able to use the very small amount of latent heat energy generated by the phase transition — between soluble and insoluble — to create electricity.

“For the first time, we’ve confirmed that latent heat has the potential to be used for thermoelectric conversion,” said Professor Teppei Yamada from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Science. “We believe we can use various kinds of materials for thermocells. With this method, in principle, it is possible to extract electrical energy from even the slightest temperature difference, greatly increasing the number of situations in which thermoelectric conversion can be used.”

The performance of a thermocell is assessed by how much voltage can be generated from a small temperature difference, which is called the Seebeck coefficient. The higher the Seebeck coefficient, the more electrical energy can be extracted. The Seebeck coefficient of thermocells using organic compounds is usually less than 1µV (one-millionth of a volt) per kelvin unit of temperature, but in this test they exceeded 2µV/K. “This is a remarkable achievement,” said Yamada. “Although we have previously created thermocells which produce 2µV/K by using a change in pH, this is the first time that the energy from a phase transition was directly used.”

The researchers hope that this work will help to improve refrigeration technology, temperature management devices and other technology like temperature sensors. “We have already reached the stage where we can consider practical applications of thermocells. For example, we expect it would be possible to generate electricity while cooling a server room or the engine of a car,” said Yamada. “The real challenge now is that this technology is not well known, so we need industry, government and academia to work together to achieve rapid social implementation.”

The researchers work and findings are contained in a recently published paper.

Latest News

20th February 2024

F-gas regulation published in Official Journal

EUROPE: The new F-gas regulation has now been published in the EU’s Official Journal, making it legally binding and entering into force in 20 days.
20th February 2024

Carrier Germany increases heat pump training

GERMANY: Carrier Germany is offering new hydraulics training courses  at its training centre on the IKKE campus in Duisburg to support the growing demand for heat pump expertise. 
20th February 2024

Oceanair acquired by builders’ merchant MKM

UK: Air conditioning and heat pump distributor Oceanair UK has been acquired by MKM, the independent builders’ merchant.
20th February 2024

Carrier to build factory and R&D facility in Saudi Arabia

SAUDI ARABIA: Carrier is to build an advanced manufacturing and R&D facility in Saudi Arabia in a partnership with Alat, a new Riyadh-based public investment fund company.
19th February 2024

BDN offers high level monitoring

IRELAND: The first installation of Bitzer’s Digital Network (BDN) in Ireland is providing high-level monitoring, system diagnostics and optimisation for an award-winning deli food specialist.
19th February 2024

Manchester receives heat pump training boost

UK: A partnership between Daikin UK, the Quantum Group and the Green Skills Academy will deliver heat pump training for college tutors and staff at nine Greater Manchester colleges.