David Goldhaber-Gordon, Physics and, by courtesy, Applied Physics; Nick Melosh, Materials Science and Engineering and Photon Science
Professors Goldhaber-Gordon and Melosh plan to demonstrate the ability to achieve an ultra-low work function graphene anode, which when integrated into a thermionic device will be able to efficiently convert waste heat into useful energy. As part of a distributed energy system this type of energy generation promises sustainable electric power without the need for expensive infrastructure. Also, with the barrier to adoption low, a near term mass deployment is possible. This is because residences and small buildings already have heating systems that could serve as distributed energy sources. The natural gas burner on a residential water heater is very hot at 1200 C – 1400 C, but much of its thermal energy is presently wasted. Just 30% conversion efficiency of this waste heat from normal hot water use would satisfy all of a typical household’s electrical power needs.