Heat pumps consitently obtain 2+ watts (3 watts is not uncommon) of heat energy for every 1 watt of "heat movement" energy.
This works because the heat pump is actually moving heat from one location to another.
- - At the "source", a "cold zone" is created by allowing expansion of a fluid with a very low boiling point (say -40c)
- - the "coolant" moves through a region of much warmer air and absorbs the "heat" from that warmer air
- - the coolant is compressed
- this forces the heat to "localize" and creates a "hot zone"
- the heat is usually radiated away as "waste heat"
- - the cycle repeats at step 1
No extra energy is actually "found" - just that heat energy is absorbed in one place (inside your refrigerator) and moved someplace else (behind your refrigerator - but in your kitchen).
Given a high-efficiency heat pump (3:1 heat:compression - easily obtained in warmer climates) and a technology capable of converting heat to electricity at a rate of 60%, it is possible to build a self-motivated heat pump. Apply the heat-electricity device to the "hot zone" of the heat pump, then feed some of the generated electricity back into the heat pump. Some initial compression energy will be required, but once the system is running, it should be self-sustaining.
All of the elements of this "theoretical device" are in existence today:
Heat pumps are easy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_pump#efficiency
And proper efficiency Heat-to-electricity converters:
The details at this site are a bit less reliable, but still interesting: http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Thermal_Electric
So all that's left is to prototype the idea, and then put it to good use!
I call this idea the "Perpetual Heat Pump"
Modified AC units reduce waste heat and enhance the power grid
Household air conditioning is one of the blessings of the 20th century, but as many Californians can tell you, they take a LOT of electricity to power.
Using a perpetual heat pump has many benefits!
- Eliminate AC systems as a drain on the electrical grid
- feed electricity back into the power grid - reducing the strain on power generation systems
- provide distributed power generation sources
- reduce "waste heat" contributions to "global warming" (I don't believe man has much impact on global climate change...but I have no problem taking advantage of the bandwagon!)
What's more, AC systems are not used 24/7 for household cooling...but if the heat pump were used 24/7, the time not spent cooling the house can be tapped to generate more extra electricity.
How to implement it?
Find a smart executive at a power company and sell him on this proposal:
Offer "inexepensive, high-efficiency AC units" with a 5-10 year, zero-percent-interest loan. (Sell customers that this is so efficient that it will pay for itself in reduced electrical costs)
- The cost of the AC units is paid by customers
- Each installation reduces load on the system
- Cost of power generation/purchase is drastically reduced
- Happier customers from lower electric bills
- Happier customers from fewer blackouts
- Happy stock/share holders from reduced operating costs
- (maybe) reduced impact when power lines are broken?
Water Harvesting + Power generation
So...we have the potential for a stand-alone electrical generator, but using it creates a lot of "cold".
Where would *that* be useful?
How about the desert Africa?
You've seen a glass of ice water "sweating", right? The differential in temperature causes water to condense on the outside of the glass. It doesn't need to be a glass of ice-water. A very cold "cooling fin" would do the same thing.
So...take our heat pump, but this time tie the "cold end" to a bunch of "cooling fins" (clean cooling fins) - cant and position them so that water will run out into a collector (maybe even set up a "stream" for the water to run in?) and turn it on. Viola! Electricity and potable water grabbed from the air.