Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Electricity from waste heat

An EU team investigated the possibility of generating electricity from wasted circuit heat. Studies of the anomalous Nernst effect (ANE) determined that while the principle works in theory, practical application requires further development.
Electricity from waste heat
The ANE is a physical phenomenon that occurs when an electrically conductive material is simultaneously subjected to a magnetic field and temperature gradient. Certain simple and cheap devices could utilise the effect to produce electricity from waste heat, thereby increasing energy production efficiency by 20 %.

The EU-funded THERMO-SPIN (Thermoelectric power generation from anomalous Nernst effect based on rare earth free hard magnetic materials) project investigated the potential. The team studied the quantum-mechanical effects responsible for the ANE by testing several magnetic metals and alloys. They also examined several simple and unusual magnetic structures in the form of thin films. The purpose was to understand the ANE.

Researchers first constructed the apparatus necessary to measure temperature gradients over wide temperature and magnetic ranges. Workers solved the problem of ambiguous measurements using a calorimetric approach to determine heat flux rather than actual temperature. The technique was subsequently verified, and measurements successfully reproduced the literature values for the tested materials.

A second study phase involved selection of an unusual ferrimagnetic alloy for integration into a thin-film structure. At a certain compensation point in temperature, the large anomalous hall effect changes sign. The team further studied the material in both the presence and absence of a temperature gradient. The thermal equivalent of the ANE remained small, requiring further analysis.

Overall, the project established that there are routes to harnessing waste thermal heat other than those reported in the literature. However, such work is still at an early stage, and the effect must be increased substantially before practical application is possible.

THERMO-SPIN has helped advance knowledge of the ANE phenomenon. The work brings practical application of the effect a step closer, potentially contributing to EU energy targets in the future.

Related information


Electricity, waste heat, anomalous Nernst Effect, magnetic field, temperature gradient, THERMO-SPIN
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