With gas prices approaching "damn, I'm going to have to start walking more" levels here in the States, everyone's doing their part to increase efficiency and reduce energy consumption, and that includes the genius farm MIT. The institute already produces 80% of its own energy, courtesy of its on campus "cogeneration plant," but a few students have found a way to make the system even more self-sufficient using a new thermoelectric prototype. The great thing is the device has the potential for applications beyond the walls of MIT, and already the students are examining ways to apply it to the home heating industry in general.
The beauty of a thermoelectric device is that it has no moving parts, making it extremely durable and easy to produce. The high durability means students were able to install it in flues at the cogeneration plant, where it will capture waste heat and use it to create more energy for the campus air conditioning, heating and electricity. Eventually, the team hopes to install the device in the waste heat nirvana, hot water pipes, which could ramp up that 80% number a few more percentage points.
In addition to increasing the efficiency of the MIT campus, the device could also have an effect on the environment by trapping waste heat before it's ejected into the atmosphere as exhaust. And after that, home heating in general could be revolutionized as consumers install the device in their home furnaces.
Ultimately, said Daniel Kraemer, graduate students in mechanical engineering, this simple device could work anywhere there's excess heat. Gizmodo writers are pretty full of hot air, Kraemer, why don't we start here? [MIT]