UConn, Army Research Lab Collaborate on New Portable, Renewable Energy Technology

scanning electron microscope image of the nanostructured Iridium oxide
A scanning electron microscope image of the nanostructured Iridium oxide, colored to represent the catalytic combustion studied by UConn and the Army researchers. (Courtesy of the Army Research Lab)

UConn’s Associate Dean for Research and Industrial Partnerships, S. Pamir Alpay, and Yomery Espinal ’18 Ph.D. (ENGR) have published a paper on a novel portable pyroelectric technology in Cell Reports Physical Science with support from the Army Research Laboratory.

Pyroelectric energy research is focused on how to generate energy from heat that would otherwise be wasted in a catalytic chemical reaction.

When pyroelectric materials are heated, their polarization changes, leading to an electron flow that generates energy. These materials are commonly used in household devices like motion sensor lights, which detect body heat to determine when someone is near.

nytime there is a catalytic reaction, heat is generated. These devices harness that heat and use it as energy. For example, a combustion engine in a car produces heat that, with this kind of technology, could be used to power the electrical functions of the car that otherwise rely on battery power.

The Army Research Lab (ARL) is particularly interested in this technology because it can provide more power with less weight, which is important for soldiers carrying heavy bags.

While scientists have been experimenting with pyroelectric power for decades, the technology proposed in this paper is completely novel.

“Something like that doesn’t exist,” Alpay says. “It would give you the opportunity to recover some things that just go to waste.”

Read the full UConn Today Story