Introducing “Heat Harvest”
Time to give IKEA its due. They don’t just produce furniture anymore than NASA produces just spaceships. IKEA is committed to sustainable living and to end opened “Space 10” a design lab/think tank/exhibition space in Copenhagen that aims to explore the future of urban living. During a recent two-week workshop two Copenhagen Institute of Interaction students (Sergey Komardenkov from Russia and Vihanga Gore from India) unveiled what they called “Heat Harvest”. And it gives new meaning to the term “reusable energy”.
Hot under the collar
Heat Harvest can be used on its own or integrated into household wares such as tables and captures and converts heat that is emitted from any number of daily objects: a cup of hot tea or a steaming plate of pancakes for example and converts the emitted heat into electricity that can be reused to power other gadgets.
The students imagine two possible products that use the technology. Comments Vihanga Gore, “…The first is table tops that extract heat from hot objects that are placed on top of them. These could be anything from a pot of soup to a frying pan straight from the kitchen stove. The second product is [a heat-harvesting pad] that you could place beneath TV set top boxes or heat-emitting power adapters anywhere in the home.”
I’m all over anything that can capture wasted heat from everyday objects and turn it into free, green electricity that can be reused at home. Especially if that green electricity can recharge my cell phone. According to a description for the project that is recapped in a techtimes.com article, a laptop uses around 40 watts of electricity, emitting almost as much heat while it’s operating. Heat Harvest desks would take heat from things placed onto an embedded pad, running that heat through a thermoelectric generator, and then pushing the energy back into a wireless charging dock for your phone.
If it was that simple we’d all be recycling our heat. Techtimes.com continues to point out that the main problem with thermoelectrics is that it requires a surface that is both a good conductor of electricity and a not-so-good conductor of heat. This is because the conversion process uses heat differences in a conductor to generate voltage. These materials have proven to be very rare and expensive, although there are a number of companies working on inexpensive solutions, making it possible to use the technology in consumer product.
It may a while before we see this type of thing pop up in the mainstream. But IKEA has lit the fire and many others will feed the flames with more and more ideas until this vision too becomes reality.