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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Generating Electricity from Heat via Sound

An idea recently put into use in the Score-Stove to generate electricity from waste heat may provide the 3rd world, and possibly extra-terrestrial explorers, with electricity. The thermo-acoustic engine was first demonstrated by LANL researchers Scott Backhaus and Greg Swift in 1999 and has a theoretical basis in the Stirling engine. Unlike Mr. Sterling's engine, the thermo-acoustic engine does not move a piston, but instead uses temperature differences to generate soundwaves which move a microphone-like component at one end to produce electricity. The Score-Stove's engine claims to have no moving parts, and creates 150W from the stove's waste heat.

Thermo-Acoustic Engines have an overall efficiency of nearly 30%, which is high compared to the RTGs used on Curiosity, whose thermoelectric converters have an overall efficiency of 6%. The lower efficiency of thermoelectric converters is offset by the lack of moving parts and experience using them, in turn making thermoelectric converters much more reliable than other alternatives, such as a Sterling Engine. The commercialization and expanded use of thermo-acoustic engines could allow them to be used in future missions. The higher efficiency translates into less fuel being needed, which means the engine can be light and cost less to launch.

Back on Mars, the weather yesterday in Gale crater was a high of 0°C with a low of -73°C. The pressure remains constant at 7.4 hPa (7.3 mili-atm), while the wind continues to come from the east at 7.2kph.

- posted by Jim @ 11:33 EST