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2008-01-15
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Super Soaking Thermoelectric Energy Conversion System

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Tagged As: Technology

Lonnie Johnson is famous for having invented the Super Soaker water gun, which implements technology stumbled upon accidentally while researching environmentally friendly heat pumps. While his public image comes from toys, Johnson is also a well known nuclear engineer with more than 100 patents - and if his latest creation works, he'll be famous again.

The Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Conversion System (JTEC) applies the classic heat engine - a device which converts heat into mechanical force. Similar devices already exist, like the Stirling Engine, but have only been adapted for production use in limited situations. The JTEC will differ by acting as a source of electricity instead of a source of mechanical force. According to the National Science Foundation, Johnson's primary funding source, "It still uses temperature differences to create pressure gradients. Only instead of using those pressure gradients to move an axle or wheel, he’s using them to force ions through a membrane. It’s a totally new way of generating electricity from heat." Using a membrane to create electricity allows the machine to generate power with nearly twice the efficiency of the Stirling Engine - theoretically up to 60% and higher.



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