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January 9 2013
When humans produce energy, we do it very inefficiently. Usually what happens is that we make something very hot (like a car engine), use a tiny bit of that energy to do work, and then spend even more energy getting rid of all the waste heat. Panasonic has developed a new thermoelectric material that can get a chunk of that energy back.
A thermoelectric material is something that can convert heat directly into electricity. It's not a new thing, but generally it's so inefficient that anyone who's serious about capturing electricity through heat instead uses some sort of steam generator. Where thermoelectrics have potential is in microgenerators, where you're just looking for a little bit of power to take the edge off of your electricity bill.
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