Energy generation using thermopower waves: Experimental and analytical progress


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Thermopower waves convert chemical energy into electrical power using nanostructured thermal conduits like carbon nanotubes (CNTs) by taking advantage of their high thermal conductivity to propagate the heat released by an exothermic reaction of a fuel layer coated around the conduit. Electron–phonon coupling in the CNTs then leads to an electrical output. Previous work using cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine coated around multiwalled CNTs has shown electrical output as high as 7 kW kg−1. This phenomenon has potential to aid the manufacture of nanoscale power sources capable of releasing large power pulses for specific applications. Researchers have studied the effects of other system properties, including the conduit thermal conductivity, the chemical properties of the fuel, and the coupling of the reactions to inorganic thermoelectric materials. An analytical solution for the governing heat and mass balance equations has also been derived. Here, we review the progress made in the field of thermopower waves. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 3333–3341, 2013