Heat Direct to Electric Energy - A Moonshot Project
Tom Spendlove posted on May 21, 2014 | 9338 views

Lonnie Johnson is trying to create more energy, and do it with clean sources. He envisions an engine that could convert heat to energy. Lonnie tells us that the best energy source is the sun, but cost effective technology to convert the sun to energy does not yet exist. In his SolveForX talk, Heat Direct to Electric Energy, Johnson gives us his best current solution.

Buildings consume around twenty percent of the energy consumed in the United States. Two thirds of that consumption comes from heating and air conditioning needs. Johnson envisions an efficient technology that could cut building consumption in half.

The JTEC (Johnson Thermo-Electrochemical Converter) engine takes ideas from Carnot cycles, fuel cells and jet engines and adapts them to a new process. JTEC operates on an Ericsson thermodynamic cycle, gaining an efficiency closer to the Carnot cycle.


Current estimates are that the JTEC could run at sixty percent efficiency, blowing away traditional coal power plants and internal combustion engines. The chart that gives this estimate in the talk is based on a standalone solar engine operating at one thousand degrees Celsius.

Flipping the talk around, Johnson discusses his plans for the JTEC engines to perform refrigeration cycles. He discusses the 2006 increase of Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) from 10 to 13 in the US. Then he drops the news that his JTEC engine has the potential to hit a SEER rating of 26. The talk ends with a laundry list of possible applications that could benefit from this new technology.

Lonnie Johnson is an incredible speaker. He explains the concepts thoroughly but using simple terms and easy concepts. While teaching thermodynamics I've taken a half hour of lecture at times to explain the Carnot Cycle information he gives in less than a minute.

The JTEC engine is a true moonshot project, with the potential to greatly benefit the world in the future. Johnson has been working on this project for a decade with no plans to slow down or give up. Finally, no discussion of Lonnie Johnson should take place without mentioning that he invented one of the best practical applications of liquid compression - the Super Soaker.


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