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New technology promising to cut CO2 and save gas

Alternative energy comes from unusual sources -- huge rivers, massive arrays of silicon panels, nuclear reactions, and massive spinning metal blades.   But German researchers are getting power from a source that might strike scientists from decades past as particularly peculiar -- they're making power from automobile exhaust gases.

In an era of ultra-expensive fuel and concerns about emissions fueling global warming, the automobile has come under increasing scrutiny with users looking for ways to extend gas mileage and cut emissions.  Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a leading German research organization, is developing materials and designs for a thermoelectric generator which will help to solve both problems.

In automobiles, two-thirds of the fuel used is emitted as waste heat. In total, 30 percent of the energy is lost in heat from the engine block and a further 30 to 35 percent is lost to exhaust fumes.  Many teams of researchers have began to look at how to recapture some of this heat and heat from similar industrial engines and transform it into electricity.  Such devices are known as
thermoelectric generators or TEGs for short.

The TEG generator takes a temperature gradient, driven by the difference between the waste heat and the ambient temperature and uses that gradient to produce electricity.  Greater temperature differences yield great results.  The
Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM has a number of thermoelectric materials under development that will harvest this heat in automobiles. 

Dr. Harald Böttner, head of the Thermoelectric Systems department states, "The temperatures in the exhaust pipe can reach 700 degrees Celsius or more.  The temperature difference between the exhaust pipe and a pipe carrying engine cooling fluid can thus be several hundred degrees Celsius."

thermoelectric converter the team is developing takes the gradient created by the exhaust gas and uses it to drive charge carriers through a semiconductor.  This creates a looped current flow similar to a battery.  The technology is relatively straightforward, but the real challenge is finding optimal thermoelectrics with high carrier mobility.  The research team is hoping that the device will make the alternator obsolete, providing power to the car's consumer electronics, onboard computers, and charging the battery.  Böttner states, "This would make it possible to cut gas consumption by between five and seven percent,"

Researchers point out that with 50 million cars on the road in Germany with an average on-road time of 200 hours a year per car, if only one kilowatt each was produced by the TEGs, this would amount to
ten terawatt hours per year. 

The researchers are hoping to begin to construct prototypes of their designs very soon.

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What's this have to do with the price of tea?
By rsmech on 6/6/2008 5:18:51 PM , Rating: 2
Researchers point out that with 50 million cars on the road in Germany with an average on-road time of 200 hours a year per car, if only one kilowatt each was produced by the TEGs, this would amount to ten terawatt hours per year.

This is irrelevant information. This power is only usable by the car. If there is extra power it goes to nothing else. This is marketing at it's best & it has invaded science. The real statistic they should have used is how much gas it saves. Or is this irrelevant fact more flashy?

I'm all for conservation but don't mislead me. If it's a good thing & the right thing to do you don't need to sensationalize it with misleading info.

By Alexstarfire on 6/6/2008 7:06:52 PM , Rating: 2
True, to an extent. It would mean that the batteries would probably last a bit longer, at the very least, and could potentially increase your mileage by reducing the workload of the engine, if only a little bit. It's not as great as they make it sound, but that's like saying the energy doesn't count at all.

By lemonadesoda on 6/6/2008 7:20:27 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that the electriciyty is somewhat "useless", UNLESS, it can be put to good use. Here are some very obvious suggestions:

1./ Remove alternator. This takes power from the car, and therefore the car would get a better BHP or would save fuel per km.

2./ Use the electricity for seat heating and/or airconditioning. Both of these use up significant power... taken from the engine, converted to electricity by the alternator. Notice how small engined cars noticably lose power when turning on a/c AND mpg goes down? This would make a big difference

3./ Hybrid cars. Get even better efficiency out of the "hydrocarbon" component of the engine.

By rsmech on 6/7/2008 1:30:21 AM , Rating: 2
This is what I mean. I know it can make the car more efficient, but that is it. So tell us about MPG savings because of it not total power that can be generated, it's irrelevant.

By brandonicus on 6/7/2008 8:53:39 PM , Rating: 2
I agree.

When reading that part I immediately thought "hmmm am I supposed to be impressed by collective terawatts." The article was fine; but the last paragraph seemed silly to me.

However, I love the overall idea considering gas is slightly over $4.00 where I am.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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