Panasonic is developing 'thermoelectric tubes' that can generate electricity from waste heat.

Panasonic has reported the start of an operational test on ‘thermoelectric tubes’ to generate electricity from waste heat. It aims to study the system’s efficiency and durability, with the aim of commercialising it in 2018. It believes that the main advantage is in the ability to capture otherwise unusable low grade heat.
The company is conducting the test at a Kyoto waste-processing plant, using hot water raised from an incinerator.
The metal tubes, which are 1.4 cm in diameter, consist primarily of a thermoelectric material that produces electricity from the temperature difference between the hot water fed through it and cooling water running around it.
A one cubic metre system is capable of generating 400 W, says Panasonic, more than double the capacity of a similar solar power syste. Typically, says the company, harnessing 1% of the waste heat from an incinerator would produce 1 MW.
Low grade waste heat at 200°C or lower from sources such as factories has not been used effectively to date, and the company says widespread use of its tubes could produce large amounts of power. "We want to commercialise the technology as soon as possible so that we can contribute to the creation of a sustainable society," managing director Yoshiyuki Miyabe said at a news conference in Kyoto.