Around one-sixth of all energy used by industry ends up as waste heat, as reported by researchers at Swansea University. Then the heat is emitted into the atmosphere, resulting in a massive amount of carbon footprint in the thin air. Specifically, waste heat is heat produced by a machine or other process that uses energy. In manufacturing, heat can be produced in a huge amount as a fraction of energy consumption varies greatly depending on machines a manufacturing industry use. Commonly, the temperature at which the heat is available also varies within a very wide range, from about 50°C up to 1000°C or higher, depending on the industrial sector and process.
The study implies that the more heat released into the air, the hotter our planet will be. This is a bad indicator of greater global warming and environmental issues. In addition, it is also bad for business because it represents wasted resources as businesses are also responsible to cut out waste.
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Fortunately, the researchers have established a better solution to help the industry cut its energy bills and reduce its carbon footprint in a more cost-friendly way by harnessing industrial waste to create electricity.
Swansea researcher’s study published in Wiley Library found that there is a material which is more efficient and cheaper to turn heat waste into electricity. The lead researcher, Dr Matt Carnie said that their findings of printed thermoelectric materials using tin selenide are a very promising way forward. Besides, it is also a device that should be cheap to be produced in a great amount.
The research discussion showed that selenide (SnSe) has a high potential for thermoelectric behaviour. The team formulated SnSe into a type of ink using a simple technique involving grinding tin and selenium metals together in a ball mill. They examined that grinding process was sufficient to convert the two metals into a compound then they mixed the powder with sodium carboxymethyl cellulose and water to produce a homogeneous liquid. The result indicated that SnSe immune to this as it was still intact, forming the ink for the 3D printing process. To test, researchers printed a simple p-leg thermoelectric device. This test demonstrated a proof-of-concept of the printing technique whilst yielding the first printed SnSe thermoelectric device, from medium to high temperature printed thermoelectric device.
The next move is to develop a kind of 3D printing technology to produce a small thermoelectric generator made out of ink to be used by industries. This technology innovation could benefit more for industries where high temperatures are involved in their manufacturing process, such as steelmaking industry. Albeit more work is needed to make this innovation perfect, this work already shows that this technique, combining efficiency and economy, could be very effective in energy-intensive industries, added Carnie.
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