US start up The Eneco Group will next week give a UK debut to an energy generation micro chip that it claims will revolutionise how IT equipment is powered, as it seeks to raise £1.5m in pre-IPO funding to support the commercialisation of the technology.
Eneco USA, which was launched this time last year as a development stage company, claims to have invented and patented a "solid state energy conversion/generation chip" that will convert heat directly into electricity or refrigerate down to -200 degrees Celsius when electricity is applied.
The microchip is described as "approximately the diameter of the top of a pencil and the thickness of a table knife", and will supposedly generate 20 Amps of current when heat is applied to one side.
According to Eneco, the technology is also quiet, requires no moving parts, can be produced using existing microprocessor manufacturing techniques and is "infinitely scalable" as sandwiching the chips together allows vast amounts of electricity to be produced from heat sources of up to 600 degrees Celsius – and all this is achieved without any harmful emissions.
The measurement techniques and results Eneco has used on the prototype chips have apparently been independently verified by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Eneco envisages the chip being used in a wide range of technologies where excess heat is produced or where there is a need for efficient cooling. In particular the company cites the possibility of:
• Replacing, or more likely improving the life span, of laptop batteries, presumably by using excess heat produced by the machine to keep topping up the battery (No it will not provide perpetual power, as some of the heat must surely escape during this power loop).
• Converting waste heat in boilers and factories into usable electricity.
• Replacing alternators in cars.
• Cooling computer chips more efficiently than existing fan systems.
Assuming this is not some complex PR stunt for the new James Bond movie Eneco also claims the chip could help deliver infrared invisibility cloaks and military stealth technology, which all sounds very 007.
Eneco is not currently generating any revenue, but reckons it will have sales of $124m by 2010 (which sounds pretty conservative if the chip delivers all that is promised) if it can raise the $40m in investment it is seeking.
For those of you with a penchant for physics the seemingly magic chip works using thermionic energy conversion whereby the thermal vibrational energy of a hot metal overcomes the electrostatic forces holding electrons to its surface. These free, excited electrons are then intercepted by a cold metal and through this process an electric current is generated and harnessed. A fuller explanation is available here and Eneco's schematic detailing the technology is above.
Hopefully the technology will be elaborated upon next Friday when Eneco presents the chip to press and potential investors. GBN will be there - almost certainly with some pretty sceptical science journalists and some pretty excited venture capitalists - and will report back on whether Eneco has uncovered the secret to improving IT energy efficiency or if the green investment community is about to be sold another pup.
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