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Power Hardware Science

MIT Produces Electricity Using Thermopower Waves 157

MikeChino writes "MIT scientists have discovered a never-before-known phenomenon wherein carbon nanotubes can be used to harness energy from 'thermopower waves.' To do this they coated the nanotubes with a reactive fuel and then lit one end, causing a fast-moving thermal wave to speed down the length of the tube. The heat from the fuel rises to a temperature of 3,000 kelvins, and can speed along the tube 10,000 times faster than the normal spread of this chemical reaction. The heat also pushes electrons down the tube, which creates a substantial electrical current. The system can output energy (in proportion to its weight) about 100x greater than an equivalent weight lithium-ion battery, and according to MIT the discovery 'opens up a new area of energy research, which is rare.'"
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MIT Produces Electricity Using Thermopower Waves

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  • by profplump ( 309017 ) <> on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:09PM (#31403742)

    Refueling could be as simple as pouring more fuel on the nanotubes. But it may also be irrelevant -- not all power systems need to be reusable. For example, an emergency beacon is not likely to be used frequently, so refueling is not nearly as important as shelf life. And even in applications where refueling is desirable, the increased power density may be worth it -- if you phone battery lasted 200 days instead of 2 days you might not care that the battery can only be refueled with special equipment.

    That being said, 100x might well be optimistic. Or it might be wildly conservative. Since this is a brand new field it seems unlikely that an estimate will be terribly accurate.

  • Fricken Lasers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gotung ( 571984 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:19PM (#31403884)
    This sounds like a niche energy product. Basically nano-combustion that very quickly creates a very strong electrical charge.

    Doesn't sound too great as a battery. But as "ammo" for hand held laser weapons? Could be perfect for that.

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