The first prototype will be a small five-kilowatt cooling system that's a little larger than an automobile air conditioner in capacity, Peterson said. It's the type of air conditioner, for instance, that could be used in a forward-deployed military command post. The military is particularly interested in the system and has supported its development, he said, to help improve fuel efficiency and economy.
For a complete range of commercial or consumer applications, some further size improvements, component integration and reduced cost will be needed, researchers say. But the potential applications are broad.
The most immediate and obvious, of course, might be automotive air conditioning, where heat energy that's now being blown out the tailpipe might be used to power the car's air conditioning. The integration of a generator into this technology might allow it to also produce electricity instead of air conditioning, depending on what was needed.
Industrial applications to improve energy efficiency are clearly possible basically, anywhere significant amounts of heat are being produced but not used. While the early applications may be most readily developed with waste heat, it could also be possible to use this technology with heat that's intentionally produced, such as with moderately concentrated solar energy to provide a building's air conditioning on hot, sunny days.
"Since this technology would allow you to produce electricity or cooling whenever something is hot, it might be an ideal complement to a 'smart' energy system that could provide extra power during peak demand periods," Peterson said. "We can now take heat and use it to create either electrical power, heat or cooling. It's not yet clear what all the possible applications will be."
OSU, through the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, can already produce the microchann
|Contact: Richard Peterson|
Oregon State University