Photovoltaic cells are best known for turning sunlight into electrical power—and they’re big business. But did you know that there’s a type of PV cell that eats heat instead of light to make power? It could replace the Li-ion battery in your cell phone, and it may also be used to scavenge waste heat from almost anything that normally dumps it into the environment, from your TV’s electronics to your car’s engine (even an electrical one).
Thermal PV tech has been around ages, and works the same way as the solar variation: Incoming radiation excites the atoms in its semiconductor structure, which then push electrons out—generating current. And much as is the case for solar PV cells, the advances in the tech have all been about improving their efficiency. Scientists at MIT have recently honed this tech, pushing the efficiency up so far that thermal PV cells are now a viable alternative to all sorts of other tech.
Photo by Rob__.