Talia Alvarez, doctorate student at the University of Manchester, UK has recently designed nano-structured ceramics, which are thermoelectric materials capable of converting the heat emanating from industrial processes to create electrical energy.
In her quest to discover an alternative source of energy, Alvarez molded the material’s chemical composition and the manufacturing process to enhance its properties, so that they can be applied in various industries including the space and automobile industries. In the automobile sector, the heat released in the car’s exhaust pipe can be reused. The exhaust air temperature is roughly at 800°K, which causes the exhaust pipe to reach between 700 and 600°C.
Alvarez Ruiz, Master of Science in electrical engineering from the Center of Research and Advances Studies (CINVESTAV) in Mexico, stated that a difference in temperature can be used to produce electricity.
Creating an economical ceramic with outstanding chemical conditions was the point of focus. It can then be used to coat the engine of a vehicle or a tube leakage. This will ensure the recovery of heat, which would lead to huge savings on fuel.
Over two thirds of the energy emitted while burning fossil fuel is wasted as heat and released into the environment. In addition to the machines, vehicles, and even the human body generates this energy source which is not utilized, said Alvarez Ruiz.
In the search for cheap ceramics
The nanostructured ceramics contains zinc oxide as the key component, which is a semiconductor utilized in industry. It is abundantly available in nature, and is environmentally friendly and economical.
What I do is play with the chemical composition of the material and the manufacturing process to improve the properties, because the current ceramics with high efficiency are expensive and toxic. Commercial materials have an efficiency of 4, mine has an efficiency of 0.6. The difference is large but the advantages are many, we aim to reduce production costs that in the future will be beneficial to society.
Alvarez Ruiz, Master of Science, CINVESTAV
The ceramics produced at the University of Manchester could be used to convert the heat emanating from thermoelectric plants, and produce sufficient electricity to power light bulbs.