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To my understanding, many processes require cooling to achieve optimum use.

Power stations, for example, require cooling for electricity production.

Computer hardware systems, similarly require cooling for the CPU.

My question is why don't these systems make use of the excess heat energy, for example, to power more turbines/cpus, in a sort of 'distributed workload'.

The idea being that the heat energy should naturally dissipate across the space.

I realize that this would likely decrease the speed/efficiency of the main working unit, but wonder, would it not be compensated for by the output from /many/ units?

This is mostly a theoretical question, and I'm also just wondering if anyone has already been working on this problem and where to find the research.

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you studied Carnot's theorem in thermodynamics? If temperature at which waste heat is being rejected is not far from ambient temperature, then you won't be able to extract enough useful work out of it, not enough to attract investment in machines which would do the extraction. $\endgroup$ – Deep Dec 24 '16 at 14:32
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If there is an efficient way to capture the heat that is worthwhile, it is often exploited. or to put it the other way around if it has not been exploited it is probably not been considered worthwhile. That said technology and techniques can change the balance now and again.

For example we used to hear a lot about how adapters/transformers left plugged in to the mains wasted energy. But in a cold country, for which your house is heated, the waste energy just makes it slightly easier for the heating system. So that is an easy implementation!

Tons an tons of research papers on increasing efficiency of every imaginable industrial and non-industrial process, think "the amazon rain forest".

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