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Summary:

Terawatts of heat are lost to the environment every year — that’s because heat energy is pretty inefficient. But startups like Lawrence Berkeley National Labs spin-out Alphabet Energy are looking to create materials that convert waste heat into usable electricity.

Terawatts of heat are lost to the environment every year due to the inefficiency of heat energy, but startups like Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s spin-out Alphabet Energy are looking to create materials that convert waste heat into usable electricity. This morning Alphabet Energy announced that it’s raised a small seed round of $1 million from venture investors Claremont Creek Ventures and the CalCEF Clean Energy Angel Fund.

One-year-old Alphabet Energy develops “thermoelectrics” for waste heat recovery — semiconductor materials that generate electricity when you make one side hot and the other side cold. The startup says it can create them at a cost 50 times cheaper than existing materials, and at around $1 per watt for industries such as heavy manufacturing, automotive, aerospace and power generation (see our list of 7 Startups Building Green Car Tech for a Pre-Electric World).

The company says its first product will be on the market within 2-3 years and it has already raised $320,000 in Small Business Innovation Research grants from the U.S. Army and Air Force and the Department of Energy. This latest seed funding will go towards producing commercial prototypes of devices that can be used in existing semiconductor infrastructure, says Alphabet Energy.

Claremont Creek Ventures has backed other efficiency plays like smart thermostat software maker EcoFactor, and efficient lighting company Adura Technologies.

For more on cleantech financing see GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Cleantech Market Overview, Q1 2010

Image courtesy of Alphabet Energy.

  1. Their website does not indicate the delta T needed for their technology to work.

    Also, not to be a snit, but I would rewrite the first sentence as:

    Terrawatts of energy are lost to the environment every year as heat — because so many processes (internal combustion engines, power plants) are pretty inefficient. A coal-fired plant that is 40% efficient outputs 60% of the coal’s energy as waste heat.

    (OK, that’s 2 sentences….)

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  2. This is terrrific! I love the 1st sentence. Jim, you are being a snit.

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