“Speculist is a killing word.”

That’s got to be the quote of the day.

Am taking a breather before diving into reading quizzes (sorry, but summerterm is busy — just as much lecture as mayterm, with twice the grading — that’s why blogging is so slow), and checked out their latest.

Heat = vibrations = energy.

Which makes me wonder: shall we reverse global warming by converting the Texas sunshine directly into ZZ Top covers?

Leave a comment


  1. Alex

     /  June 5, 2007

    I saw this too – and I can’t figure out why they don’t just use the heat to increase pressure which will push against the piezoelectric. Why bother turning it into sound in the first place? There may be a good engineering reason for doing so in a small device vs. a heated pressure cylinder.
    Now as for ZZ Top – lord knows that band generates enough heat on its own. 🙂
    …I’m shiftin’ through the Texas sand…..

  2. One thing I can easily think of… pressure = safety issues. This system has a lot less shake and bake to it..

  3. Mike

     /  June 5, 2007

    True. One of the big holdbacks of solar cells is the chemical battery storage units that would be required to store the energy can be dangerous if people don’t understand how certain things work (how to switch back and forth manually if needed, lots of wiring which can scare lots of average joes, plus the hazardous waste that dozens of car batteries can generate). Pressure = safety issues to the uniformed. Moving parts = scary to non-technical people (i.e. your average urban middle-classer yuppie or straight middle-classer). If you can make it with no moving parts to break, no chemicals to spill, no wiring to worry about other than maybe plugging red plug to red port, then you have a sale.

  4. Mike

     /  June 5, 2007

    I meant un-informed.

  5. More than to just the un-informed. Sure, there’s no explosive gas in there, but in a military operation, the last thing you need is a stray round or piece of shrapnel turning your spiffy generator into a compressed-air -powered projectile…

  6. Mike

     /  June 5, 2007

    I wasn’t thinking along those lines, but you have a point.

  7. Alex

     /  June 5, 2007

    Well there’s the engineering reasons. Danke.

  8. I’ve been wondering why we don’t convert our excess heat into power for years. You’d think our great southwestern desert would be filled with little generating stations. Stirling engines have too many moving parts, solar cells need dusting, etc., but sheesh, it’s a lot of energy going unused.

  9. alex

     /  June 6, 2007

    Seems to me that cost of running transmission lines from places of zero habitation to those of mass habitation could be one issue. Also – how does one build a stable power generation plant on sand? And the probably real reason – no one bothered because other than Solar, no one could think of any real reason to capture all that heat economically.

    The amount of energy that bombards the planet every day from the sun is huge, and if we could convert a small fraction of it into viable power, we would have plentiful power for millennia.

  10. Mike

     /  June 6, 2007

    Much of the southwest is rock, not sand. I think the cost is more of an issue, but also there is the environmental problems. Not that this is dirty, but that much of this land is federal or state owned and is hands-off due to endangered species such as the f!@#$%^ desert tortise (which has singlehandedly held up the increasing of NTC bor over a decade). Nice, cheap power with no envirnomental effects, but not if it might hurt an endangered species.

  11. Mike

     /  June 6, 2007

    I have noticed a neat gadget along these lines on amazon. Its a new “quiet” generator that has no moving parts. It is basically a large battery that has the equivalent power of a small gas generator (1500 to 2000 amps) and can provide juice for about 12 to 18 hours. You can also get a solar power recharger for it so it technically can’t run out of fuel. I was interested in maybe buying it (I am in the market for an emergency generator), but this one didn’t have the best reviews. It appears to be Gen 1 tech, so it is having teething problems (if you don’t use it the batteries die, doesn’t store well) and is also not nearly as powerful as I want (I am looking for a 5300 amp model at least). A current gas generator is about the same amount, more reliable, and provides more juice for the same money. But if they could make this more powerful and a bit more reliable, that would be sweet. A generator that you can just recharge with a solar panel, no moving parts and no noise. You would probably have to buy two (one recharges while the other works), but still.

  12. alex

     /  June 6, 2007

    Wait awhile until this comes out and then see if you can afford it:

    But I think you would hook it into your power need directly, not a battery for later storage which is another technical issue alltogether.

    So going back to your desert comment, yes perceived environmental impact will probably prevent desert power generating stations much like the perceived problems prevent wind turbines from going up. But I don’t think (yet) there would be problems putting these heat capturing devices or even solar panels on roofs in urban areas, where the heat output coming off a city can be quite large. Plus it lowers your heating/cooling bill by having that insulating surface in the winter and reflecting surface in the summer.

  13. JimDesu: thermovoltaics aren’t that far along yet. Technogypsy and I talked about it. IN theory, they rock, but their efficiencies and output volume are still too low.

    Soon, one hopes.


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