A team comprised of international scientists from Ohio State University, North Carolina State University, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences has managed to come up with a technique for capturing heat and then transforming it into electricity by making use of magnet particles.
The research has been published in journal Science Advances and carries the potential of creating efficient techniques that could be used for generating electricity from car exhaust, industrial processes, and even space missions. The researchers were working on paramagnons.
Paramagnons are tiny bits that do have magnetic flux but are not magnetic themselves. Magnets, upon heating, lose their magnetic forces and become paramagnetic. At his stage, they cannot be utilized for collection of energy as per the traditional knowledge. However, this research has proven that once a paramagnet is heated up, it can actually capture heat and transform it into electricity.
Joseph Heremans who is the co-author of the study and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and Ohio Eminent Scholar in Nanotechnology at The Ohio State University said in a press release, ‘The conventional wisdom was once that, if you have a paramagnet and you heat it up, nothing happens. And we found that that is not true. What we found is a new way of designing thermoelectric semiconductors–materials that convert heat to electricity. Conventional thermoelectrics that we’ve had over the last 20 years or so are too inefficient and give us too little energy, so they are not really in widespread use. This changes that understanding.’
Of course, there are certain limitations to the findings of the researchers. For instance, they have discovered that paramagnons can only push electrons for a billionth of a millionth of a second. However, the team says that even such a tiny fraction of enough for making paramagnets become energy harvesters. Heremans said, ‘Because of this discovery, we should be able to make more electrical energy out of heat than we do today. It’s something that, until now, nobody thought was possible.’