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Issue 2, 2018
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Emerging electrochemical and membrane-based systems to convert low-grade heat to electricity

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Abstract

Low-grade heat from geothermal sources and industrial plants is a significant source of sustainable power that has great potential to be converted to electricity. The two main approaches that have been extensively investigated for converting low-grade heat to electrical energy, organic Rankine cycles and solid-state thermoelectrics, have not produced high power densities or been cost-effective for such applications. Newer, alternative liquid-based technologies are being developed that can be categorized by how the heat is used. Thermoelectrochemical cells (TECs), thermo-osmotic energy conversion (TOEC) systems, and thermally regenerative electrochemical cycles (TRECs) all use low-grade heat directly in a device that generates electricity. Other systems use heat sources to prepare solutions that are used in separate devices to produce electrical power. For example, low-temperature distillation methods can be used to produce solutions with large salinity differences to generate power using membrane-based systems, such as pressure-retarded osmosis (PRO) or reverse electrodialysis (RED); or highly concentrated ammonia solutions can be prepared for use in thermally regenerative batteries (TRBs). Among all these technologies, TRECs, TOEC, and TRBs show the most promise for effectively converting low-grade heat into electrical power mainly due to their high power productions and energy conversion efficiencies.

Graphical abstract: Emerging electrochemical and membrane-based systems to convert low-grade heat to electricity

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Article information


Submitted
21 Oct 2017
Accepted
21 Dec 2017
First published
21 Dec 2017

Energy Environ. Sci., 2018,11, 276-285
Article type
Review Article

Emerging electrochemical and membrane-based systems to convert low-grade heat to electricity

M. Rahimi, A. P. Straub, F. Zhang, X. Zhu, M. Elimelech, C. A. Gorski and B. E. Logan, Energy Environ. Sci., 2018, 11, 276 DOI: 10.1039/C7EE03026F

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