July 3, 2012


A Century-Old Technology To Extract Power From Smokestacks (Michael J. Coren, 7/02/12, Co.Exist)

Between 20% to 50% of U.S. industrial energy input is lost as heat, much of it vented to the atmosphere in polluting exhaust gasses.

Now, a new use for an old technology, the Stirling engine, is converting this waste into usable electricity and boosting the efficiency of conventional power plants by making industrial exhaust into a power source. The physics are deceptively simple. Stirling engines, although vastly more efficient than when they were first invented in 1816, still work on the same basic principle: The difference between hot and cold fluids can generate mechanical motion. A heat source vaporizes and expands a fluid that pushes against a piston. When the fluid condenses as it cools, the cycle repeats.

For decades, the engines haven't been used much because they don't operate well at temperatures under about 1,200 degrees, making use cases few and far between. But a new company, CoolEnergy, backed by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and private equity investors, is deploying its first heat engines that can fire even at "very low" temperatures (about 200 to 500 degrees).
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Posted by at July 3, 2012 5:17 AM

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