MIT engineers discover a new way to generate electricity

generar electricidad

The price of electricity in Spain will break all records this week And if this continues like this, we will have to get used to getting up at 3 in the morning to put the washing machine and iron, taking advantage of the “advantages” of the new rate by sections. The neighbors will complain about the noise, but it is simply that a good part of homes will not be able to pay the bill in another way. And wait for the summer. With 35 degrees in the shade in a good part of the peninsula, you will see when we start to put the air conditioners with current prices.

The situation is terrible. Renewable energies are changing the world energy market and for two years it has been the most economical generation option (even without subsidies) with countries like Spain having plenty of technology and sun, wind and coasts to produce. As for nuclear fusion, which promises clean, unlimited and cheap energy, it will not arrive for decades because it simply has not interested those in charge.

In practice, either because of taxes, because of price manipulation, because of what they call tariff deficit (which, like the bill, you have to have a master’s degree from Harvard to understand) or perhaps because presidents of government end up on the boards of directors of the companies. energetic, no technological advance has been reflected in the rate paid by the consumer. It is Spain, the cost of energy is increasing and much higher than in other European countries with higher GDP.

MIT and new ways to generate electricity

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineers they say they have discovered a new way of generating electricity using tiny carbon particles that can create an electric current simply by interacting with an organic solvent in which they are floating. In essence, this new carbon nanotube material can generate electricity by drawing energy from its surroundings.

The discovery has emerged from research on carbon nanotubes in which this group at MIT specializes. This material is one of the alternatives in which the industry is working to produce a new generation of processors, capable of replacing their equivalents based on silicon transistors, the basis of computing in recent decades.

The MIT team showed in 2010 that carbon nanotubes were capable of generating “thermoelectric waves.” When a carbon nanotube is coated with a layer of fuel, moving heat pulses or thermoelectric waves travel through the tube, creating an electrical current.

What they have now discovered is that when part of a nanotube is coated with a polymer similar to Teflon, an asymmetry is created that makes it possible for electrons to flow from the coated to the uncoated part of the tube, generating an electric current. Those electrons can be extracted by immersing the particles in an electron-starved solvent. To take advantage of this special ability, the researchers created electricity-generating particles by crushing carbon nanotubes and transforming them into a sheet of paper-like material.

When these particles are immersed in an organic solvent such as acetonitrile (the simplest organic nitrile), the solvent sticks to the uncoated surface of the particles and begins to extract electrons from them.

“This mechanism is new and this way of generating energy is completely new”, says the head of the investigation Michael Strano. «This technology is intriguing because all you need is to flow a solvent through a bed of these particles. This allows you to do electrochemistry, but without wires », Explain.

In future work, Strano hopes to use this type of power generation to build polymers using only carbon dioxide as the starting material. In a related project, he has already created polymers that can regenerate themselves using carbon dioxide as a building material, in a process powered by solar energy. This work is inspired by carbon fixation, the set of chemical reactions that plants use to build sugars from carbon dioxide, using energy from the sun.

We do not know how far these new technologies can go and if they can be applied to generate commercial electricity. The group aims to start micro- or nanoscale robots with the ability to power themselves without the need for a power system. The research is funded by the US Department of Energy.

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