Super Soaker Inventor Working on Clean Energy
Lonnie Johnson was working on a Freon-less heat pump when he invented the Super Soaker. Since then, his toy millions have allowed him to quit his job at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (he is a nuclear engineer and holds more than 100 patents) and keep working on his inventions. The latest one is a solid-state heat engine that could potentially revolutionize clean energy production. He calls it the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Conversion System (JTEC). It has no moving parts like a photovoltaic panel, but the input is heat, like in a stirling engine. Johnson claims that at 600 degrees his device would be 60% efficient.
This engine, Johnson says, can operate on tiny scales, or generate megawatts of power. If it proves feasible, drastically reducing the cost of solar power would only be a start. JTEC could potentially harvest waste heat from internal combustion engines and combustion turbines, perhaps even the human body. And no moving parts means no friction and fewer mechanical failures.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has given funding for the development of the JTEC. One more thing to add to the list of things that we hope will work and will be here soon.
That's not even the whole story. Johnson is also keeping occupied working on advanced battery technology, specifically thin-film lithium-ion conductive membranes.
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