A Tiny Device May Improve The Energy Efficiency Of The Electronics Utahns Use Every Day

Aug 12, 2019

A 5 millimeter by 5 millimeter device that can transfer waste heat produced by electronic devices into radiation.
Credit Kristen Murphy / Deseret News

Dr. Mathieu Francoeur, a professor and mechanical engineer at the University of Utah, has created a tiny device that could increase the efficiency of all of our electronics. 

The device consists of two thin silicon chips placed a microscopic distance apart, which are able to recycle waste heat back into energy.

 

Francoeur explained how the devices work:

“They convert heat into infrared radiation. It’s basically invisible light. What we ultimately want to do with this is to convert the infrared radiation into electrical power. It’s actually pretty simple, it’s basically the same design. What we need to do is replace the low temperature side of the device with a photo-volteic material.  An example of a photo-volteic material is a solar cell. And that’s what we need.”

This device has a lot of potential applications.

“We want to focus on converting waste heat generated by electronic devices. For example cell phones, computers, lap-tops and so on,” he said. “So it’s 5 by 5 milimeters square, so it’s pretty small. Of course you would need more than one. For a cell phone, what we calculate using an estimation is that you array fifty of these little chips together and you could improve the battery life by twenty or thirty percent.”

Twenty or thirty percent more energy efficient! That’s a lot more texting, talking and scrolling between charges.