Soon British rivers will be heating millions of homes. England’s Energy Secretary Ed Davey is trying to promote water-source heat pumps; carbon-free devices that extract thermal energy from waterways to heat water for radiators and showers.
The technology is already in use in Scandinavian countries where heat from nearby rivers and canals is pumped into houses.
He has identified more than 4,000 rivers, estuaries, coastal sites and canals with water warm and accessible enough to heat more than a million homes in the vicinity, the Independent reported.
The technology is not only clean and renewable but cheap too. It will allegedly slash power bills of Brits by 20%.
‘We need to make the most of the vast amount of clean, renewable heat that lays dormant and unused in our rivers, lakes and seas’ the Independent quoted the Secretary.
The heating systems used in Britain will be more effective than the ones used in the Scandinavian countries. The new systems developed by scientists at Mitsubishi and Mike Spenser-Morris, a London property developer and director of the Zero Carbon Partnership can create 45C heat and cover a wider area.
The system requires a network of pipes running 2 meters below the surface of the water where the temperature is about 8C to 10C. These pipes are filled with a solution of water and anti-freeze which is heated by the warmer water outside the pipe and pumped into the house.
There has been an increasing number of wearable heat technologies that have health sensors as medical tools to track a person’s well-being. Many of these devices need to be charged or are battery-powered.
A handful of researchers want to take batteries out of the equation and instead, use waste body heat and convert that into useful electricity to power sensors.
“The average person is something like an 80-watt LED light bulb,” said Jamie Grunlan, Texas A&M University’s Linda & Ralph Schmidt ’68 Professor in Mechanical Engineering.
Grunlan and his team of researchers are working on using the waste heat the body gives off and converting that into useful electricity. The idea is to create printable, paintable thermoelectric technology that looks like ink and can coat a wearable fabric, similar to dyeing colors onto cloth. Once a person wears the fabric, devices such as health sensors can be powered.
“Our coating coats every fiber within that textile, and so what’s drawing it is simply that textile needs to just be touching the heat source or be close enough to the heat source to be feeling the heat source,” Grunlan said.
Military and sporting goods companies have applications for this type of technology because there is not a large battery pack worn on the body that could be a cause of injury if the person would fall.
“They would love to power health sensors off of body heat and then wirelessly transmit that data to wherever,” Grunlan explained. “You’d like to know if somebody had a concussion or was dehydrated or something like that while it’s happening in real time.”
As a person generates heat, the temperature outside is colder than what’s against the body. The temperature differential generates a voltage.
The goal is to design technology that can get one volt or up to 10 percent efficiency and beyond. So, for example, a researcher would try to get eight watts from a person who is generating 80 watts.
The ingredients in this thermoelectric recipe include carbon nanotubes, polymers and a carbon material called graphene, which is a nanoparticle.
Researchers are trying to perfect the recipe of this ink-like material.
“The one voltage is realistic, but how much material do we need to get that one voltage because we need as little as possible?” said Carolyn Long, a Ph.D. graduate student at Texas A&M.
“So, different polymers, different amounts of the multi-walled or double-walled nanotubes, adding the graphene, which order it needs to go in exactly to create the best pathway for the electrons for the thermoelectric material,” said Long of the various experiments she and her lab mates have conducted.
The aim is to create a product that can be mass produced.
“It will happen. It’s not will it happen. It’s when. Is it a year, or is it five years?” Grunlan said.
That will depend on how much funding and manpower is available to make this technology a reality. (VOA)