Laptop makers investigate heat conversion chips

20 Nov 2006 View Comments
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Thermal chip dwarfed by a coin
Chip promises electricity from heat without moving parts

Eneco, a US-based chip development firm that claims to have developed a "solid state energy conversion/generation chip" capable of turning a proportion of heat energy directly into usable electricity, has claimed that it is in talks with both Dell and Apple about how the technology could be used in laptops and other devices.

Speaking at a presentation to potential investors in London, chief executive Dr Lew Brown said that the new chip is small, lightweight, quiet and capable of producing up to 20 amps of current. "It'll suit any portable device and is also very scalable and long lived as there are no moving parts," he added

Further reading

He added that both Dell and Apple are interested in using the chip in their laptops to extract heat generated by microprocessors, convert it to electricity and use it to power cooling fans. Harnessing waste electricity in this manner could help improve battery life and enhance processor performance, according to Brown.

However, Brown admitted that the talks are at an early stage and that all parties are still investigating where the chip will sit on the motherboard. "We are talking to partners about what they need to do and what we need to do to get the first demonstration products built," he said.

Brown added that ultimately the chip could also be used to replace lithium-ion batteries with a portable heat source such as ethanol-based catalytic burners. He argued that this approach would be cleaner and more convenient than traditional battery units.

The chip, which generates electricity when one side is heated, could have a myriad further uses in IT and in other spheres where energy is lost through waste heat, according to Brown. Primarily Eneco envisages the technology being used to replace car alternators and harness waste heat in industrial facilities.

The chip is also capable of acting as a cooling device, Brown added, as the chip can reverse its energy conversion process and be cooled to -200 degrees Celsius when an electrical current is supplied.

Read more at IT Week's Green Business News blog.

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