"Charging-free electrochemical system for harvesting low-grade thermal energy"

Yuan Yang: Seok Woo Lee, Hadi Ghasemi, James Loomis, Xiaobo Li, Daniel Kraemer, Guangyuan Zheng, Yi Cui, and Gang Chen; PNAS, 12/02/14.

Additional Authors: Seok Woo Lee, Hadi Ghasemi, James Loomis, Xiaobo Li, Daniel Kraemer, Guangyuan Zheng, Yi Cui, and Gang Chen

Abstract:

Efficient and low-cost systems are needed to harvest the tremendous amount of energy stored in low-grade heat sources (<100 °C). Thermally regenerative electrochemical cycle (TREC) is an attractive approach which uses the temperature dependence of electrochemical cell voltage to construct a thermodynamic cycle for direct heat-to-electricity conversion. By varying temperature, an electrochemical cell is charged at a lower voltage than discharge, converting thermal energy to electricity. Most TREC systems still require external electricity for charging, which complicates system designs and limits their applications. Here, we demonstrate a charging-free TREC consisting of an inexpensive soluble Fe(CN)63−/4− redox pair and solid Prussian blue particles as active materials for the two electrodes. In this system, the spontaneous directions of the full-cell reaction are opposite at low and high temperatures. Therefore, the two electrochemical processes at both low and high temperatures in a cycle are discharge. Heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency of 2.0% can be reached for the TREC operating between 20 and 60 °C. This charging-free TREC system may have potential application for harvesting low-grade heat from the environment, especially in remote areas.