A team of Ukranian and American scientists have discovered that by using structures called ferroelectric nanowires, they can generate electricity from a temperature difference. This concept is now new, but rather uses different approaches and materials. It can harvest energy by using the temperature difference between materials and/or ambients.
They call their energy-harvesting technology “pyroelectric” and use the second law of thermodynamics : “The second law of thermodynamics rules modern life: Through all kinds of industry, humans consistently produce an enormous amount of waste heat. However, the laws of thermodynamics do not exclude rescuing some of this energy by harvesting the thermal fluctuations to produce electricity,” says lead researcher Anna Morozovska of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
The team experimented with ferroelectric nanowires of different radiuses and found out that by modifying the size of the nanowire they can regulate the phase transition temperatures and create a system with a large, tunable, pyroelectric response.
The scientists’ pyroelectric device does not contain any moving parts and can be used in long-term ambient applications such as in-vitro biological systems and in outer space, being very efficient at low temperatures, and having their efficiency decrease at higher temperatures.