Researchers at University of Minnesota have successfully manufactured a new alloy named Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 that converts heat into electricity. The alloy consists of multiferroic composites such as nickel, cobalt, manganese and tin. Multiferric metals have rare, unique magnetic and electric properties exhibiting more than one ferroic property in a single conversion phase.
Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10, in a stable, untouched state, is a non-magnetic material which becomes strongly magnetic when exposed to high temperature. In the video below, University of Minnesota researchers show how Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 begins as a non-magnetic material then suddenly becomes strongly magnetic as the metal is heated. When this happens, it jumps over to a permanent magnet. This represents the direct conversion of heat to kinetic energy. As this metal becomes highly magnetic it introduces electricity to an attached coil. According to University of Minnesota researchers, “this process involves heat absorption caused by rapid transformations between solid states, which in turn produce electricity. It is capable of turning waste heat — the kind emitted from vehicle exhaust pipes or from air conditioning units — directly into electricity.” Click below for a glimpse of this alloy in action.
Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 has crossed its first hurdle in the laboratory by minimizing the process of hysteresis, which is the loss of heat energy during its conversion to electricity. By minimizing heat loss, University of Minnesota scientists were able to capture and conserve heat energy from this process; proving waste energy could be converted into electricity. According to Richard James, head of the research team and professor of aerospace engineering and mechanics at UM. “This research is very promising because it presents an entirely new method for energy conversion that’s never been done before.” He added, “It’s also the ultimate ‘green’ way to create electricity because it uses waste heat to create electricity with no carbon dioxide.”
Today, more than half the world’s energy is produced by fossil fuel power and a lot of heat energy is lost in the process. The achievement of low hysteresis suggests a high efficiency when using this new alloy making it practical for many applications. An obvious application would be installation in exhaust pipes of vehicles and machinery. Many automakers around the world are already working on devices that can convert a car’s hot exhaust into usable electricity. The material could also be used in power plants with cogeneration platforms that are designed for a combined heat and power structure or even as a geothermal energy generator. Geothermal energy is present at very low temperature and needs vast amounts of energy to convert steam into electricity. This alloy can potentially facilitate geothermal energy making it an efficient and convenient source for large-scale operations.
The next step is to conduct extensive research and development to explore practical applications, efficient manufacturing capabilities, limits of the alloy’s properties and performance of this new energy conversion system. Additionally we hope they will come up with a shorter name while they are at it.