OSU: Microwave key to huge energy savings
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
The humble microwave make hold the key to harvesting waste energy.
The problem of waste heat — from cars, appliances, machines and industry — has vexed researchers looking for a way to harness that heat to produce energy.
Chemists at Oregon State University have discovered that the humble microwave could play a crucial role in producing a promising group of compounds that can be used to more easily capture waste heat and turn it into electricity.
OSU scientists are nuking powdered metals in order to heat them to 1,800 degrees to create "skutterudites," a key ingredient used to produce low-cost thermoelectric energy.
"This is really quite fascinating," said Mas Subramanian, the Milton Harris Professor of Materials Science at OSU, in a press release. "It’s the first time we’ve ever used microwave technology to produce this class of materials."
Findings from the OSU research were published in the Materials Research Bulletin.
Thermoelectric power generation has always been known as a way to produce power from waste heat, but the process has always been prohibitively costly, inefficient and potentially toxic.
OSU's early success — further research is underway — in making a key compound needed to harvest waste heat efficiently and safely was supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.
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