There is untapped energy all around us: computers, appliances and even your morning cup of joe radiate heat that sadly dissipates into the air, unutilized. Denmark-based student designers, Sergey Komardenkov and Vihanga Gore, envision a future where the average IKEA table top could turn this wasted energy into usable electricity, which could then be used to charge a host of electronic devices.
Currently studying at Copenhagen’s Institute of Interaction, the designers have come up with the brilliant idea of integrating thermoelectric technology into household items, thus making them greener and more sustainable. Developed as part of a two-week workshop at IKEA’s Space10 innovation lab, their brainchild, known as Heat Harvest, is a device that captures the energy from a cup of piping hot coffee or a plate of hot food, turning it into electricity that can be actually reused at home. What is more, this device can be easily embedded into furniture, such as tables, console cabinets, laptop stands and so on. Komardenkov said:
Of course we should also try and make smarter home appliances that use less energy when we are not using them. But they would still generate heat that we can turn into electricity and reuse.
A regular laptop, when used to a moderate extent, consumes nearly 40 watts of electricity and emanates an equal amount of energy in the form of heat, during its operation. According to the designers, a Heat Harvest desk would be able to capture this latent heat by means of a specially-built embedded pad. The absorbed energy would then sent through a tiny thermoelectric generator, with the resulting electricity being transmitted to the table’s surface via a wireless charging dock. Speaking about the concept, Gore added:
We imagine two possible products that use the technology. The first is table tops that extract heat from hot objects that are placed on top of them. These could be anything from a pot of soup to a frying pan straight from the kitchen stove. 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.
Central to the concept is the thermoelectric principle, which dictates that temperature differences between two surfaces can be converted to electric voltage. However, producing electricity through this process has long been considered difficult, since it usually requires a material that is a good conductor of electricity as well as a bad conductor of heat. Such substances, until recently, were super expensive and quite rare. Thanks to the latest developments in the field of nanotechnology, companies like Alphabet Energy have been able to lower the thermal conductivity of certain semiconductors, making them suitable for use in thermoelectric generators.
The Heat Harvest technology, which is currently under development, could make IKEA’s wireless charging pads all the more efficient and sustainable.