New Technology Captures, Reuses Waste Heat

Greater efficiency can pay big dividends, whether it’s a more efficient 40 kw generator or a more efficient 400 kw generator. Jonathan Fahey of Forbes reports that researchers at Oregon State University (OSU), through a partnership with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, are developing a device that will improve efficiency by capturing waste heat and using it to power other applications. The device will be first used by the U.S. Army, which will attach the device to the exhaust systems of its diesel generators. The captured heat will then power air conditioners that keep the electronics at the army’s mobile command centers cool during battle.

An estimated 75% of the energy used to power the army’s generators becomes waste heat, according to the Forbes article. And because the air conditioners require about half of the electricity produced by the generators, funneling the waste heat into other uses could result in much greater efficiency and more available electricity for communications equipment while also reducing fuel consumption by as much as 30% and offsetting some of the hundreds of dollars in costs of running the generators. Moreover, the technology could also reduce the number of generators needed in the field.

If successful, the technology could also be applied to other kinds of motors in the future, although it is still too expensive to commercialize in the short term.

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