Scientists at the University of Utah have developed a way to convert the wasted heat in electronic devices into sound and then electricity, promising cooler, greener, and perhaps louder, computers and other machines. Orest Symko, the University of Utah physics professor heading the research effort, said in a statement that five of his doctoral students had come up with improved thermoacoustic engines. These devices convert heat into sound waves, which drive a pressure-sensitive mechanism to produce electricity.
The researchers, funded by a U.S. Army effort to improve the performance of battlefield electronics, plan to present their findings this Friday during the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Salt Lake City, Utah. Scientists from Washington State University and the University of Mississippi are also participating in the project. One of Symko's doctoral students, Myra Flitcroft, created a cylindrical heat engine about half the size of a penny that generates a 120 decibel whine, which is as loud as a siren or a rock concert.