You are here:

Physics/Heat Energy

Advertisement


Question
I was wondering how heat energy can be converted into electricity? These days the weather has become uncomfortably hot and it would be nice if there was something that could extract a lot of the heat from the air and put it somewhere instead of simply running it through an air conditioner and wasting energy in that way. Is there a way to take heat from the air and extract electricity that can be added back into the power grid?

Answer
Hello James,

I'm afraid that what you propose is made illegal by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The heat you remove from the air would have to be put someplace that would get hotter than the environment. That's much like what happens in a refrigerator. A refrigerator cools warm food that is put into the refrigerator by pumping heat from the food to the room. The refrigerator needs a motor to accomplish that.

Check out this site:
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/seclaw.html#c3
See what it says about the 2 diagrams.

I hope this helps,
Steve

Physics

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Steve Johnson

Expertise

I would be delighted to help with questions up through the first year of college Physics. Particularly Electricity, Electronics and Newtonian Mechanics (motion, acceleration etc.). I decline questions on relativity and Atomic Physics. I also could discuss the Space Shuttle and space flight in general.

Experience

I have a BS in Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering. I am retired now. My professional career was in Electrical Engineering with considerable time spent working with accelerometers, gyroscopes and flight dynamics (Physics related topics) while working on the Space Shuttle. I gave formal classroom lessons to technical co-workers periodically over a several year period.

Education/Credentials
BS Physics, North Dakota State University
MS Electrical Engineering, North Dakota State University

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.