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Berkeley Lab working with Alphabet Energy to develop a low-cost thermoelectric system

With a $2-million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC), Berkeley Lab is partnering with Alphabet Energy to create a cost-effective thermoelectric waste heat recovery system to reduce both energy use in the industrial sector and electricity-related carbon emissions.

ICF International estimates that such a system could save California 3.2 million megawatt-hours per year in energy while also increasing electrical reliability. The funding comes from CEC’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, which funds clean energy innovation to reduce pollution, foster economic development, and meet the state’s climate goals.

Industrial facilities, such as power plants, cement plants, mining and manufacturing facilities, and oil and gas operations have more than 763 megawatts (MW) of electricity-generating potential from waste heat in California, and national potential is approximately 15,000 MW. However, most current thermoelectric materials are limited by several factors, including high cost, low efficiency, and the inability to operate reliably at temperatures above 400 degrees Celsius.

The new Berkeley Lab project, co-led by Prasher and Vi Rapp, a mechanical research scientist in the Energy Technologies Area, is working to overcome these barriers. In collaboration with Alphabet Energy, they will develop a cost-effective process for creating an advanced thermoelectric material constructed from silicon nanowire arrays.

Commercially available thermoelectrics achieve less than 5 percent efficiency in converting heat to electricity. The technology has already seen some market traction in the oil and gas and automotive industries.

Alphabet Energy is a Hayward, California-based startup that launched in 2009 using nanotechnology licensed from Berkeley Lab. They are developing advanced thermoelectric materials based on silicon nanowires with conversion efficiencies of 10% or greater and the ability to operate at temperatures up to 800 degrees Celsius.

The higher operating temperature also opens up new possibilities, such as increasing the power produced from capturing high-temperature waste heat from gas flares.

The CEC funding will enable Berkeley Lab and Alphabet Energy to develop a prototype device and validate its performance for high temperature heat-to-electricity conversion.

Comments

gorr

I told you clearly before to wait and not buy any pure battery cars. The nissan e-note is already doing 85 to 95 mpg and the trick is to also capture exhaust pressure and heat with the help of this thermo electric devise and increase mpg over the 104 mpge of the tesla model s. You save a lot of troubles and cost by sticking with gas and you keep the high torque and reliability of electric and your car perform very well in cold canadian winters or high heat maxican summers.

Henry Gibson

Free piston Stirling engines are probably more efficient. Exhaust gas turbine electric generators have also been built in the UK. Both of these can also use strange materials for higher efficiencies.

As mentioned elsewhere hydraulic hybrids reduce fuel consumption by half without expensive generators, batteries and motors.

Great device to have in homes and factories. It is called co-generation and is related to the gas-turbine-steam-turbine combined cycle generating power plants which then can even be more efficient by using steam turbine exhaust heat in a neighborhood heating system.

Where natural gas is available every building should generate its own electricity. Honda, Marathon, Capstone turbines and Bladon jets have their units.

Most Capstone and other micro turbines can burn flare gas. Flare gas can also be used to operate small steam boilers and engines and turbines. Technology greatly perfected by Livio Dante Porta allows long life steam boiler operation on any water recovered from oil wells, and steam operated pumps with attached generators could be used as they were long ago in oil-gas producing areas. ..HG..

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