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JRI Students Present Energy Research in Japan


JRI Researchers Develop a Novel Renewable Energy Source

 JRI researchers have developed a novel renewable energy acquisition and storage mechanism.  The system is based on devices called entrochemical devices.  These are closed systems that spontaneously generate differing temperatures in different parts of the device and hold these temperature differences for possibly long periods of time.  Because one part of the device is at a different temperature from the other part, heat spontaneously flows into or out of (or both) at least one part of the device.  This heat flow makes it possible to do work such as distilling water, moving heat around, and generating electricity.  The device can be thought of as a thermal battery which has a limited capacity to create temperatures higher than or lower than the surrounding temperatures.  What makes these devices very interesting is that they generate the thermal gradient as a result of only salt concentration differences between water solutions.  The problem with the devices, however, is that they eventually run down as the water moves from one solution to the other, erasing the concentration gradient.


What the JRI students and their Research Mentor, Dr. Sanza Kazadi, did was to develop a recharge cycle enabling the entrochemical systems to be recharged and, therefore, reused.  Moreover, the recharge cycle was developed in such a way that it functioned by harvesting only environmental thermal energy.  "We used a trick of thermodynamics in developing this cycle,"  explained Dr. Kazadi.  "We were able to use environmental thermal energy to transfer entropy from the entrochemical system to the atmosphere.  This recharged our system. We believe that the rotation of the planet enables the entropy to leak out into space daily, resetting the environmental system and enabling our future entropy transfers."


Ten students participated in the study.  They were Johnny Huang and Aaron Schwartz, seniors from Gabrielino High School; Ryan Goy, a junior from the Chadwick School; Chris Koo, a sophomore from South Pasadena High School; Jennifer Choi, a senior, and  Sophia Choi, and Jae-Heun Lim, juniors, from Crescenta Valley High School; Andrew Koh, a junior from Polytechnic School in Los Angeles; and Chan-Hee Koh and Jack Wang, undergraduates at the California Institute of Technology.  The students assisted in the design, construction, and evaluation of the performance of the prototypes.

During the week of June 6th, five members of the student team and Dr. Kazadi travelled to Japan to participate in the Asian Conference on Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment, which was held in Osaka, Japan from June 6th through June 9th.  They presented their work in a paper entitled Collecting energy from a planetary entropic Stirling engine which was presented in a 20 minute presentation to the assembled scientists.  The paper may be found here.


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