Researchers develop technique to exploit geothermal energy in a sustainable manner

Krafla geothermal power station
Krafla geothermal power station in Iceland (Credits - Wikimedia Commons)

The way we fuel our power production has been significantly changed by the demand to limit emissions and ascent of renewables, from wind to solar to biomass. Those technologies are the world’s most appealing, energizing and emerging technologies which aim at producing energy. However, there is a massive, permanent and unused energy resource which is existing literally under our noses. We are referring to geothermal energy. Generation of geothermal energy is possible through the devices to make use of heat inside the Earth’s crust.
Researchers from Tokyo Tech have made major progress in understanding and advancement of sensitized thermal cells (STCs) which is a type of battery that can produce electric power at 100-degree Celsius or less. The study has been published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A.
Before this, they have proposed the use of STCs as a new method for converting heat directly into electric power using dye-sensitized solar cells. They likewise replaced the dye with a semiconductor to enable the system to work using heat rather than light.
In the new cell, an electron transport layer (ETM), a semiconductor layer (germanium), and a solid electrolyte layer (copper ions) are sandwiched between the electrodes of the battery where electrons get thermally excited while going from a low-energy state to a high-energy state in the semiconductor and finally shifting naturally to the ETM.
Oxidation and reduction reaction involving copper ions take place at the interconnection of both electrolytes while electrons travel from the electrode through an external circuit, pass through the counter electrode, and then reach the electrolyte. This completes an electric circuit shifting low-energy electrons to the semiconductor layer. Scientists during the experiment found out that after a certain time, the electricity stopped flowing instead of working as a perpetual machine. This is due to the completion of redox reactions at the electrolyte end owing to the shifting of different types of copper ions.

Existence of heat simply opens up the external circuit for a short time reverting the situation. Dr Sachiko Matsushita, study leader said that heat which is considered as low-grade energy, would become a great renewable energy source with such design. Scientists are excited about the model as it is nature-friendly and has the possibility to solve the global energy crisis.
Moreover, he added that there is no fear of costly oil, radiation or instability of power generation when done with the help of sun or wind. The goal of future research will be the enhancement of battery with the belief of solving mankind energy needs without harming the earth.
Journal Reference: Journal of Materials Chemistry A


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