It may still be nearly impossible to assemble, but Ikea furniture just might be the 21st-century breakthrough we’ve been waiting for. Thanks to an idea known as Heat Harvest, recently developed at the Ikea-run research lab Space10 in Copenhagen, we may soon be able to purchase tables that harvest heat generated by coffee cups, laptops, or anything else that produces thermal energy, and turn it into usable electricity. Just imagine — one day, your morning cup of Joe could actually be all you need to recharge not only yourself, but your smartphone too.
The concept hasn’t come to fruition quite yet, but thanks to Heat Harvest and recent innovations from companies like Alphabet Energy, which is known for making thermoelectric generators out of nano-scale materials, we may be getting closer to turning the dream into a reality. Alphabet Energy has been applying nanotechnology to make semiconductors less efficient, so that instead of conducting heat, they can actually be used as generators.
“We imagine two possible products that use the technology”, says Vihanga Gore, one of the minds behind Heat Harvest. “The first is table tops that extract heat from hot objects that are placed on top of them. These could be anything from a pot of soup to a frying pan straight from the kitchen stove. The second product is heat harvesting pads that you could place beneath TV set top boxes or heat-emitting power adapters anywhere in the home.”
Ikea has already ventured into the realm of wireless charging, and has a line of devices that range from table lamps to phone covers to just simple wireless charging pads that can be placed anywhere your heart desires. But none of these, of course, use thermoelectrics — not yet, at least.
“Of course we should also try and make smarter home appliances that use less energy when we are not using them,” said Sergey Komardenkov, the other half of the two-person team behind Heat Harvest. “But they would still generate heat that we can turn into electricity and reuse.”
So just wait, friends — Ikea may become the best furniture you can buy. Or at least, the most efficient.