MIT Studies Show Thermopower Could Revolutionize Energy Research
MIT scientists discovered a radical new way to produce, store and move electricity using carbon nanotubes a billionth of a meter wide to produce thermopowered waves that can transport electrical charges. The result is basically a recreation of the same techiques ocean waves employ to pick up, collect and carry debris along the water's surface. Preliminary experiments show that thermopower has the potential to create 100 times more energy than a lithium-ion battery if it can be refined.
Sub-microsopic hollow nanotubes are created to form a lattice of carbon atoms that are coated with a combustible fuel source. When ignited, the nanotubes move the thermal waves 10,000 times faster than any chemical reaction, producing a pulse of heat that drives the electrons along the tube, causing 'electron entrainment'. This phenomenon “opens up a new area of energy research,” commented Michael Strano, MIT’s Charles and Hilda Roddey Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and senior author of the paper published in the March edition of Nature Materials. Although currently very tiny, Strano suggests nanowires could be designed into large arrays that could supply significant power for larger electrical devices.