A new power generation technology could sharply increase the ability of a car's engine to convert fuel into useful power. By capturing waste heat energy and converting it into electricity, Power Chips plc, a majority owned subsidiary of Borealis Exploration Limited (BOREF) says it could increase an automobile engine's effective power output by 75%, significantly improving vehicle performance, efficiency and design flexibility.
Less than 15% of the energy in a gallon of gasoline reaches the wheels of a typical car; most of the rest is wasted as heat. Power ChipsĒ are designed to capture this wasted energy and convert it into electricity that can be used to power ancillary systems such as air-conditioning or entertainment.
By eliminating these secondary loads from the car's engine, all of the mechanical output can be directed into the drivetrain. This could allow auto manufacturers to design lighter, more fuel-efficient engines without sacrificing horsepower and torque. In new hybrid vehicles, the increased power could translate directly into improved acceleration and range for electric motors.
Power ChipsĒ are wafer-thin, fingernail-sized diodes that use quantum mechanical thermotunneling to generate electricity from heat. They are expected to have a wide range of applications and to produce electrical power more efficiently and less expensively than any existing technology.
By eliminating the drain on an internal combustion engine required to produce electricity, the engine's full power can be directed to the driveshaft. Automakers may thus be able to achieve the same horsepower and torque output with smaller, lighter, and more fuel-economical engines. And by using Power Chips to generate electricity, automotive manufacturers will be able to eliminate alternators and belts and obtain greater design flexibility.
This automotive application of Power Chips is described in a paper, "Automotive Waste Heat Recovery Using Power Chips," to be presented by Power Chips' Dr. Brian Von Herzen on Thursday at the Global Powertrain Congress in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The conference is organized by the International Council of Powertrain Engineering and Management, and provides a forum for presenting new technologies and techniques to automotive engineers and management from around the world.
Since most of the energy consumed by an internal combustion engine is wasted, capturing much of that wasted energy can provide a large increase in energy efficiency. A typical engine producing 100 kilowatts of driveshaft power, for example, expels another 68 kilowatts of heat energy through the radiator and 136 kilowatts through the exhaust. The paper says that a panel of Power Chips against the radiator, if they reach their projected 70% of maximum possible efficiency, should generate 8.7 kilowatts, while Power Chips wrapped around the exhaust pipe could produce as much as 68 kilowatts.
"If Power Chips realize their potential," the paper concludes, "they will be able to replace the alternator, power all auxiliary loads electrically (including climate control), and add significant shaft power to an automobile with an electric-assist drivetrain -- perhaps a total electrical power which is fully 75% of the shaft power of the primary engine. The devices are designed to achieve this goal for less than $20 per kilowatt capacity, which is highly competitive with all alternator systems, but with no additional fuel cost for the energy generated."
The Power Chip is one of the first transformative technologies to emerge from the nanotechnology revolution. Power Chips are discs comprising two electrodes separated by a gap of less than 20 nanometers, through which the hottest (most energetic) electrons tunnel to create an electrical current. Power Chips are silent, nonpolluting, solid-state devices that are scalable as arrays to meet any size power load. They can generate electricity from heat produced by any primary energy source, including geothermal, coal, gasoline, natural gas, methane, and hydrogen.
They are projected to operate at 70% of the maximum theoretical efficiency for energy conversion, even when converting low-grade waste heat. The only other technology capable of converting such heat directly to electrical output is thermoelectric (Peltier) devices, but the efficiency of production thermoelectric systems is only 5-8%.
Power ChipsĒ are protected by an extensive patent portfolio covering general theory and specific techniques for quantum thermotunneling and thermal energy conversion. More details are available on the Power Chips plc Website http://www.powerchips.gi, including the full text of issued patents and photographs of prototype Power Chips.
Power ChipsĒ were invented and are being developed and licensed by Power Chips plc, a majority-owned subsidiary of Borealis Exploration Limited (BOREF). Both companies are incorporated in Gibraltar. Borealis' business is reinventing the core technologies used by basic industries, including electrical power generation, cooling and thermal management, electric motors, and steel production.
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