Smart watches, smart glasses, Fitbits... smart technology is everywhere today! The market for wearables has become inundated with version after version of different accessories to mass-market. There is constant improvement happening in the industry and everyone's competing to be the first-to-market with the latest and greatest.Continue reading →
Space exploration is a topic that has piqued the world’s interest since Apollo landed on the moon in the 60s. There are so many questions around space travel, the preparation, mission details and much more. But have you ever asked yourself how these missions are powered?
Lucky for you, we’ve just become resident experts in powering spacecrafts. Missions, past and future, have been made possible through the use of radioisotope thermoelectric technology - an incredible source of energy responsible for powering the most historic voyages of our time.
With climate change posing an increasing threat to our environment, scientists believe pressure in thermoelectric generators and thermionic emissions could be the solution.
These alternative energy sources have provided renewable power by recycling “wasted” heat. Examples of this technology are found in gas pipelines and spacecraft. While this has contributed a sizable reduction in the nation’s energy budget, it still hasn’t reached its full potential. The flaw in current thermoelectric compounds is that it only truly succeeds at high heat. Better performance at room temperature is actually the most critical form of renewable energy, but that hasn’t seen improvement in 60 years.
Scientist Liu-Cheng Chen hypothesized that combining pressure and charged chromium particles with lead selenide would produce this greater form of thermoelectric energy. He proved his theory by placing the lead selenide under 30x greater the normal atmospheric pressure. This caused certain changes at the atomic level and produced the most efficient level of room temp thermoelectric generation to date.
Another example of this groundbreaking discovery is thermionic emission of graphene. Thermionic emission happens when a metal is heated and electrons are shot out of the surface. Historically, these emissions have been used to power vacuums and has been experimented with heavily. Emissions from graphene are especially unique because the material is a nanomaterial that’s atomically thin, making it an unusual candidate for this type of energy generation.
Researchers at Singapore University of Technology and Design have created a new general framework to capture thermionic emissions in graphene. Undergrad student, Yueyi Chin, stated that traditional methods of recording this energy can be up to 50% inaccurate! This new theoretical framework helps decrease that inaccuracy by accounting for graphene’s reaction at higher energy states. The electronic properties of graphene are no longer the mystery it used to be. With this new thermionic emission model, we can better see the potential of graphene materials and devices.
Graphene thermionic emissions and pressurized materials will enable scientists to further experiment ways to create renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint.
We’re all familiar with solar panels. How they absorb light that can power just about anything. But what if we told you energy can now be harvested in the dark.
UCLA scientist, Dr. Aaswath Raman, explored this idea of turning darkness to light after traveling through a village in Sierra Leone with no access to power at night. He hypothesized that coupling cool, dark air from space and natural heat flowing under a platform could generate enough energy to power a light bulb.
This theory is supported by the radiative cooling principle - objects radiate heat absorbed during the day into space at night. Radiative cooling also explains why you may see morning frost on the ground. The temperature difference between the exposed surface and the air beneath creates electricity.
Raman collaborated with scientists from Stanford University to test his theory using this principle. Together they created a thermoelectric generator comprised of styrofoam wrapped in aluminum, a metal disc painted black, a voltage convertor, and an LED light bulb. They placed the homemade model on a roof and monitored its electrical output for 6 hours. Not only did it power the light bulb, it generated 25 mW/m2.
While this experiment was minimal impact, it demonstrated three important things:
Soldiers depend on the battery life in their electronic devices like radios, GPS systems, night vision goggles while out on a mission. According to Noel Soto, project engineer at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, studies have shown that 16 to 20 pounds of the heavy loads soldiers carry comes from batteries.
"While the standard resupply mission is currently 72 hours, military operations are becoming increasingly expeditionary -- often with a special-ops focus -- pushing resupply missions out to five or more days," said Edward Plichta, Command, Power and Integration Directorate's Chief Scientist for Power & Energy, under the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.
To remedy issues like this, the army has been focused on finding alternative ways to power gear. In 2016, the army began testing a device that straps to Soldiers’ legs and generates power just by walking. The device, now called The Power Walk®, is a lightweight energy harvester that generates electricity walking, much like how regenerative braking works in hybrid cars. The harvester’s on-board microprocessors analyze the wearer’s gait to determine when to generate maximum power with the least amount of effort.
Other energy-harvesting innovations, like the Energy Harvester Assault Pack, reuse the energy exerted naturally from Soldiers’ movements. Not only is this reusable energy guaranteed to have a protracted battery life, but it also frees up space in Soldiers’ bags, lightening their loads and allowing more room for necessities like water, food, and ammunition.
The next phase of the energy harvesting development focuses on creating and providing power beyond just charging batteries. Accomplishing this could mean that power can be provided to all Soldier-wearable devices, like the Product Manager Soldier Warrior's NETT Warrior device, through a Soldier power management system.
Valuable innovations like these are created to benefit our Soldiers so they not only have to carry the weight of batteries, but also so they can extend their mission with the same battery. With improvements in technological innovations, the possibilities of helping our Soldiers are endless.
II-VI Marlows’ team of accomplished engineers works hand-in-hand with OEMs to develop optimized thermal solutions. From concept to completion, II-VI Marlow offers state-of-the-art thermoelectric solutions to meet your requirements.
For soldiers deployed in isolated areas, maintaining a consistent heat source to a military tent proves challenging. And while electric space heaters are commonplace in offices and homes, they are too dangerous for military use.Continue reading →
Wine is one of the few consumer products that can improve in flavor and value over time. It's also highly susceptible to deterioration when kept in the wrong conditions. Proper wine storage is most affected by light, humidity and temperature (and vibration to a lesser extent). To compensate for these environmental factors, most people turn to thermoelectric or compressor coolers. To find what works best for you, let’s examine the pros and cons of both.Continue reading →