Some studies have shown that anywhere between 20-50 percent of the energy consumed worldwide is dispersed as heat. A new technology developed by Swiss researchers and the Swiss start-up OsmoBlue can supposedly turn even very low heat into electricity from almost any source.
Until recently it was only possible to harvest heat over 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees calculus) and turn it into electricity. Now, Swiss company OsmoBlue developed a revolutionary process based on the principle of osmosis which can convert as little heat as 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees calculus) into electricity.
The process of osmosis occurs naturally when two different solutions are separated by a membrane. A stream flows from one side of the membrane to the other, balancing the concentrations of the solutions. During this process it is possible to gather mechanical power and turn it into electricity by using a turbine and an alternator and using the movement of the solution.
The technology developed by OsmoBlue is particularly beneficial since it can use any type of heat source including air, water, gas and more. The efficiency of the newly developed device depends on the type of the heat source and its temperature. The OsmoBlue device is said to be connected to the heat source on one side and to the power grid on the other and OsmoBlue believes it can produce modular systems which could be installed inside existing structures close to cooling systems and produce electricity out of excess heat.
There are many potential applications for the technology according to OsmoBlue including waste incinerators, refineries, data centers etc. OsmoBlue estimated that 10 megawatts of heat could produce between 100 and 600 kilowatts of electricity equal to the power consumption of about one hundred average homes. The first prototype of the OsmoBlue is being manufactured at EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne). The first a large scale unit could be installed in a regional waste incineration company as soon as next year.
Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.
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