Thermopower Wave: Nanotube Electron Entrainment

In summary, an exothermic reaction along the length of a nanotube can create a "thermopower wave" that pushes electrons along, resulting in a power spike. This phenomenon was not predicted by theory and could potentially be used for efficient conversion of chemical energy into electrical energy, as well as powering ion engines and boosting the speed or torque of electric motors. Nano-structured chemical fuel may also be able to optimize the mass ejection for maximum efficiency. This discovery has potential for various applications in the field of energy and propulsion.
  • #1
sanman
745
24
Apparently, carrying out an exothermic reaction along the length of a nanotube can result in a "thermopower wave" which results from "electron entrainment" (a wave propagating along the nanotube which pushes electrons along, resulting in a power spike)

http://www.physorg.com/news187186888.htmlSo what can this be used for? What is the efficiency of conversion of the chemical energy into electrical energy?

Is there some special conversion efficiency advantage being achieved here because of nanotubes being an alleged "quantum wire"?

Could you use this as a bulk electrochemical material to power an ion engine and obtain very high thrust without using a nuclear reactor?
 
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  • #2
Here's a BBC news article with a video embedded:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8556656.stm

I wonder if there is some way to use nano-structured chemical fuel to optimize the mass ejection, so that as high a mass-fraction as possible would travel on an exactly anti-parallel trajectory, to maximize action-reaction.
 
  • #4
From previous link:
The rapid transit of the reaction down the nanotubes appeared to pull the electrons within it along. This appears to be something that wasn't predicted by theory, since the authors describe it by writing that they need to "introduce a new phenomenon that results from their effect on carrier propagation." (Of course, if it was completely unexpected, why measure current at all?) They refer to the combined reaction/heat/electrical pulse as a thermopower wave.
Haven't yet read the paper, but I find the bit about introducing a "new phenomenon" somewhat mystifying. After all, phonon drag (and specifically phonon drag thermopower) has been studied in 2DEGs for nearly a couple decades now.
 
  • #5
I was just musing further on the "thermopower wave" effect.

We have all heard of nitrous oxide injectors being used to boost gasoline combustion engines - this was developed in WW2 for temporarily boosting the speed of aircraft.

Could the thermopower wave effect be used to create a power surge/spike that could strongly boost the speed or accelerative torque of an electric motor in similar fashion?
 

1. What is a thermopower wave?

A thermopower wave is a unique phenomenon in which heat is converted into electrical energy by creating a wave of electrons through a nanotube. This process is known as thermoelectric power generation.

2. How does a thermopower wave work?

In a thermopower wave, a temperature gradient is created along the length of a nanotube. This causes a flow of electrons, known as a "wave," to move through the tube. As the wave moves, it generates an electrical current that can be harvested for energy.

3. What are the potential applications of thermopower waves?

Thermopower waves have the potential to be used for various applications, such as powering small electronic devices and sensors, as well as providing a more efficient method of converting waste heat into usable energy.

4. Are there any challenges in harnessing thermopower waves?

One of the main challenges in harnessing thermopower waves is controlling and maintaining the temperature gradient along the nanotube. This requires precise control and management of the heat source and sink, as well as the nanotube material and structure.

5. How is research on thermopower waves progressing?

Research on thermopower waves is still in its early stages, but there have been promising advancements in understanding the underlying physics and developing more efficient and stable nanotube materials. However, further research is needed to fully explore the potential of this technology and address any challenges that may arise.

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