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Electricity Generation Today

Today, the vast amount of the world’s electric energy comes from thermal generation. Heat is first created – usually from burning fossil fuel or from nuclear fission – to produce a hot gas that is then used to drive a turbine and electric generator. Producing electricity from thermal energy this way is chronically inefficient, however. For example, a coal-fired plant – which is the most common method of generating electricity in the world – typically converts to electric energy 35% of the thermal energy produced by combustion. The rest is lost as waste heat through flue gasses and the cooling mechanism. The thermal efficiency of a nuclear plant is similar.

Some of this inefficiency is an unavoidable result of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but a significant amount of the loss occurs because traditional methods cannot economically convert “low quality” (i.e., lower temperature) heat to electricity. Overall thermal efficiencies can be improved significantly with the heat-to-electric technology that Neothermal has developed. This technology is particularly important because of the vast amount of waste heat that is available in the world today, not just at thermal generating plants plants, but from industrial and municipal waste heat generally. Not only is waste heat a lost opportunity today, the removal of that heat has its own adverse consequences, such as consuming large amounts of water for cooling.

In addition to retrofitting generating plants to convert today’s waste heat to electricity, it is expected that Neothermal’s technology, when fully developed, can be used to replace all or most of the traditional turbine generation mechanism, producing a substantially more efficient overall thermal conversion for those plants.

 

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