Saturday, October 22, 2011

ThermoElectric Heat Pumps!

Illustration from the Watronix website
21 Oct 2011: One of the advantages of working in a University is that you find there is always someone researching in something useful - it's a bit of luck to know the right ones and to ask the right questions.
    Having a Friday evening pint with one of my colleagues, Mark W, and randomly asking him what he is doing, I discovered he is an expert on ThermoElectric Heat Pumps - using the Peltier Effect. Used in the right way, similar devices can convert a heat difference into electrical power, rather like a motor becoming a dynamo.

Technical datasheet.
Watronix information
Wiki information HP
Wiki information Generating

Before you or I get too excited, let's look further - I have also discovered that these are very small - from a few millimetres to a postage stamp, and the largest about the size of a playing card - and quite expensive. They have only about half the COP of a vapour compression heat pump like the one we are using, even if they could be scaled up enough to heat a house. There is also no set way to deliver or extract the heat or coolth, and how to group them.
   One of the areas of Mark's research is to work out ways of doing this. Usually, a heat sink is fixed to one side and the other side is cool, to cool the interior of a piece of electronic equipment, perhaps. So this could be used for heating, if a fast moving water jacket (ground loop) was on the cold side side and a slow moving water jacket (heating circuit) was on the other. You would need an awful lot of playing cards to heat a house... :)

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