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Converting Heat To Electrical Power Efficiently Using Quantum Dots


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Microcircuits might become much more efficient, with the development of a new type of nanoscale engine, which uses quantum dots to generate electricity.

Professor Andrew Jordan, a theoretical physics of the University of Rochester explains that the system is simple and it is based on particular properties of quantum dots, which harvest heat.

But simple, does not mean less efficient. The proposed invention will be capable of generating more power than any other existing nanoengine. The engines will be small and static, with tiny capacity. However, when a million of them are put together in a layered structure, a device as small as a square inch in area will be able to produce enough energy to power a computer.

The research idea was just published in the journal Physical Review with a lead author Jordan, and team. The paper explains how each nanoengine is based on two neighboring quantum dots, and a current moving from one to the other.

The size of the quantum dots allows them to act as artificial atoms, or quantum mechanical objects. The path that the electrons have to travel across both quantum dots is adjustable. The purpose of this is to make the electrons gather heat from the middle region, where it is generated, and convert it into electrical power.

This is possible thanks to the quantum mechanical effect known as resonant tunnelling, which makes quantum dots act as energy filters. If the system is in resonant tunnelling mode, the electrons would pass through the dots only if they have specific energy. If they do not possess it, then they are blocked.

The engines can be produced easily as part of a large array and in multiple layers, because quantum dots can be grown out of semiconductor materials. The authors call this configuration “The Swiss Cheese Sandwich.”

The amount of power generated by the system is strictly related to the difference in temperature across the energy harvester. The higher it is, the more power is produced.

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