Meet the ‘Heat Harvest’ table capable of charging your phone from the heat of a cup of coffee

4 Dec

Many objects around your home generate heat… appliances, lighting, computers and even coffee cups radiate heat that dissipates into the air. But what if we could capture that energy and transform it into electricity? What if your kitchen table or computer desk contained thermoelectric hardware to turn that heat into usable electricity?

Well Sergey Komardenkov and Vihanga Gore who are students at Copenhagen’s Institute have proposed this amazing idea to imbed the technology into Ikea furniture. The idea is cleverly titled “Heat Harvest”, and it was developed at an Ikea-run research lab opened this fall in Copenhagen.

The table top can use heat from a plate of hot food or a cup of coffee and change it back into electricity, which can be used to charge electronic devices. The technology integrated in the design uses basic physics by exploiting the differences in temperature between two surfaces to generate electricity. On an atomic scale, the temperature difference causes charge carriers in the material to diffuse from the hot side to the cold side of a generator. So electrons at the hot end will have more energy than those at the cold end and will move around more towards the cold end.

According to the project description, the average laptop will consume about 40 watts of electricity and emit the same amount of heat during operation. A Heat Harvest desk would use an embedded pad to absorb the heat and run it through a small thermoelectric generator, then drive the resulting electricity back to the surface of the table through a wireless charging dock.

Ikea has already ventured into the realm of wireless charging, and has a line of devices that range from table lamps to phone covers to just simple wireless charging pads that can be placed anywhere your heart desires. But none of these, of course, use thermoelectrics.

The dynamic duo aren’t planning on stopping there. Gore explained “We imagine two possible products that use the technology, the first is table tops that extracts heat from hot objects that are placed on top of them. The second product is heat harvesting pads that you could place beneath TV set-top boxes or heat-emitting power adapters anywhere in the home.”

It will likely be a while before we see thermoelectric technology implemented into Ikea furniture that can actually be bought. The point that Komardenkov and Gore have demonstrated, however, is that the emerging technology could be scaled down to suit our everyday lives. Watch this space.




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