Saturday, 9 July 2011

Waste energy wasted no more

Engineers at Oregon State University are working on ways to capture and use the low-to-medium grade waste heat that’s now going out the exhaust pipe of millions of automobiles, diesel generators, or being wasted by factories and electrical utilities.

It hopes to be able to use much of the waste heat either in cooling or the production of electricity.

"This could become a very important new energy source and way to improve energy efficiency," said Hailei Wang, a research associate in the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at OSU.

It is called a "thermally activated cooling system" that gains much of its efficiency by using extraordinarily small microchannels, which help to better meet the performance, size and weight challenges.

It effectively combines a vapour compression cycle with an "organic Rankine cycle," an existing energy conversion technology.

The OSU prototype succeeded in turning 80 per cent of every kilowatt of waste heat into a kilowatt of cooling capability.

It should also be possible for such systems to be used in hybrid automotive technology, taking waste heat from the gasoline engine and using it not only for air conditioning but also to help recharge the battery that powers the vehicle, explained Wang.

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