Researchers at Panasonic have developed the world’s first thermoelectric tube that can produce clean energy from hot water piping, meaning that electricity could be generated using the piping itself. At about 10-cm in length each, four tubes have been fitted in a demonstration system which generates about 10W of power using nothing more than the temperature difference between hot and cold water.
Until now, thermoelectric generation has been prone to high loss and is often considered as unreliable as major source of renewable energy. By making the product tubular, the researchers have enabled it to take in more heat at the same size and hence produce up to four times more power than conventional systems.
DigInfo reports that the thermoelectric tube has a simple structure with thermoelectric material of low thermal conductivity and metal components of high thermal conductivity stacked at an angle. The angle ensures that direction of heat flow is perpendicular to the electric current, minimizing loss. The researchers aim to bring out a commercial version of the product by 2018 making it possible to produce affordable clean energy by factory waste or geothermal springs.