Along with his fellow inventors, Nicholas Vida, an ophthalmologist and board member of Swiss Blue Energy AG in Bad Zurzach, Switzerland, is on the verge of a breakthrough into eco-friendly energy generation from waste heat.
How does an ophthalmologist develop a propulsion system to generate energy?
I have always been a tinkerer and inventor. I am interested in new technologies and their application. Energy issues are pivotal now. That motivated me to conduct research into the area of power generation from waste heat.
Your invention is a cylinder with magnets and a rotating disc, which has hot and cold water fed into it. How does this create energy?
The principle is not new and it has long been known that it works. However, until now the right materials were not available. Our system uses thermal energy to activate the thermo-magnetic switch especially manufactured by us. As a result, the magnetic energy released in the process is converted into rotational energy. This can eventually drive a generator - essentially a modern technical mill wheel.
Is the energy yield even large enough?
Per cylinder, we create 4kW/h. The cylinders are stackable, however - on top of or next to each other. Therefore we can easily achieve 30kW/h with a cylindrical tower.
And where does the warm water that you need for this come from?
From waste heat; for example, from industrial plants. There is an incredible amount of energy wastage these days. A machine needs energy to operate, and produces heat, which must in turn be cooled with a water system. Our system utilises this waste heat and transforms it back into energy. Temperatures under 80°C are sufficient. The warm water can be used countless times. It is cooled by approximately just one degree in a cylinder passageway, then we channel it into the next cylinder and so on.
Are there other potential applications than drain water heat recovery?
Our system can also be used in countries where sea water is desalinated to produce drinking water. The ingenious thing is that you do not need anything other than hot water and that is available in unlimited quantities in countries with hot springs or in geothermy.
How long have you been working on this now?
I started thinking about it in 1994. But we have been working very hard on this for five years.
You are a German citizen, but work and conduct research here in the canton of Aargau. Why?
In Switzerland there is legal certainty and a collaborative approach rather than an adversarial one. So the parts that we need are produced by four companies, three of which are in the canton of Aargau. It has many small, excellent firms, which can fulfil the highly specialised tasks we need. Our goal is to continue working together with these suppliers and assemble the system in our company.
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