Hydrogen Tech Generates Juice From Heat

Engineer, ex-NASA scientist and inventor Lonnie Johnson has come up with something that could truly be revolutionary–a device capable of doubling the efficiency of today’s solar panels, by harnessing heat gain to produce electricity. It is called the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC).

The machine contains no moving parts, and works by splitting hydrogen atoms into protons and electrons, thereby producing electricity. The JTEC system utilizes the electro-chemical potential of hydrogen pressure as applied to a proton conductive membrane, which, along with a pair of electrodes, form a Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) similar to those used in fuel cells. One MEA stack is coupled to a high-temperature heat source and the other to a low temperature heat sink. Hydrogen circulates within the engine between the two MEA stacks via a counter-flow regenerative heat exchanger, allowing it to approximate the Ericsson cycle.

Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter

image via RedFerret

Johnson sees widespread applications for the technology, as it could utilize heat from fuel combustion, solar, low grade industrial waste heat or waste heat from other power generation systems including fuel cells, internal combustion engines and combustion turbines. It could even be used as a heat pump, generating electricity for homes while moderating indoor air temperatures.

It sounds good, of course, but is it for real? According to Red Ferret, several other Palo Alto Research Center scientists set up three-dimensional computer models to analyze fluid and heat-flow behavior in the JTEC under different conditions, and came away from those experiments impressed. Johnson needs now the funding to develop this cleantech wonder. If you’re interested in donating to the cause, you’re invited to make use of the PayPal button on Johnson’s website.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.