Direct Thermal Charging Cell

Principal Investigator: Dr. Tony S.P. FENG (Department of Mechanical Engineering)

This project is showcased in the inaugural exhibition – Engineering for Better Living in Innovation Wing Two

Project information


Low-grade heat, which is abundantly available in the environment and even in human body, is always wasted without use. Direct Thermal Charging Cell (DTCC) is invented for efficient heat-to-electricity conversion yielding a conversion efficiency over 5%, which surpasses all existing thermo-electrochemical and thermo-electric systems in low-grade heat regime.

Novelty of the Project

DTCCs can continuously convert heat to electricity under isothermal heating during the entire charge/discharge process and can be self-regenerated when cooled down. The synergistic chemical regeneration mechanism allows the device cyclability. This is the first demonstration of heat-to-electricity conversion under isothermal operation and chemical regeneration, which revolutionizes the design of thermoelectrochemical systems. DTCCs also have other uniqueness and advantages for practical application including a wide operation window, low-cost, bendable, simple system and the ability to form stacks of cells, which is a game-changing electrochemical technology expected to open new horizons for many applications to convert low-grade heat to electricity efficiently.

Benefit to the Community

Low-grade heat recovery is a great challenge but also a promising opportunity to hike up energy efficiency and cut carbon emission. DTCC, with its excellent heat—to-electricity efficiency and advantages for practical application, can capture exhaust heat and cut down primary energy wastage creating a great potential to reduce greenhouse effects. By establishing the startup and collaborating with industries, the invention has been moved from academic research toward real products in various applications, such as HVAC, smart window and self-powered/wearable technologies. This game-changing electrochemical technology is expected to help reduce greenhouse gas emission and bring tangible economic and environmental benefits.

About the Scholar

Dr Feng’s research focuses on the development of new electrochemical technology for energy harvesting and recycling. He is a Chartered Engineer, a Chartered Scientist, a Fellow of the Insitute of Materials, Minerals & Mining, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

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Achievement of the Project

Business Start-Up Award and Energy Award, IChemE Global Awards
Gold Medal, 48th International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva
Gold Medal, Top 10 Best Invention Award, 5th International Invention Innovation Competition in Canada (iCAN 2020)

Direct Thermal Charging Cell for Converting Low—grade Heat to Electricity, Nature Communications, 10, 4151, 2019.

US Appl. 62/617514, PCT/CN2019/O71777, TW 201935723.

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