News: A Sound Way To Turn Heat Into Electricity
University of Utah physicists developed small devices that turn heat into sound and then into electricity. The technology holds promise for changing waste heat into electricity, harnessing solar energy and cooling computers and radars. University of Utah physicist Orest Symko demonstrates how heat can be converted into sound by using a blowtorch to heat a metallic screen inside a plastic tube, which then produces a loud tone, similar to when air is blown into a flute. Symko and his students are developing much smaller devices that not only convert heat to sound, but then use the sound to generate electricity. The devices may be used to cool electronics, harness solar energy in a new way, and conserve energy by changing waste heat into electric power. "We are converting waste heat to electricity in an efficient, simple way by using sound," says Orest Symko, a University of Utah physics professor who leads the effort. "It is a new source of renewable energy from waste heat." Five of Symko's doctoral students recently devised methods to improve the efficiency of acoustic heat-engine devices to turn heat into electricity. They will present their findings on Friday, June 8 during the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center hotel. Symko plans to test the devices within a year to produce electricity from waste heat at a military radar facility and at the university's hot-water-generating plant.