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Power plants waste huge amounts of energy as heat—about 40 to 80 percent of the total in the fuel they burn. A new device could reduce that waste, cutting fuel consumption and carbon emissions by as much as 3 percent and saving companies millions of dollars. (Three percent might not seem like much, but for context, air travel accounts for 2 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.)

The generator makes use of a novel, highly efficient thermoelectric material discovered recently at the University of Michigan (see “Thermoelectric Material to Hit Market Later this Year”). Thermoelectric materials, which convert heat into electricity, have been around for decades, but they have always been too expensive to use outside extreme situations—in spacecraft, for example.

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