Waste Heat technology is applicable to several industries, including manufacturing, transportation, and oil refining among others. Waste Heat is heat that is generated as a by-product from an industrial, electrical or machine-based process and not utilized for that process. Capturing the waste heat lost during these processes represents a huge market opportunity. It is estimated that a typical heat engine loses about 70% of heat through waste heat, and that harnessing waste heat in a car engine, for example, could increase fuel efficiency by 10%. There is currently a lot of work being done by individual inventors, small & large companies and research institutions on ways to harness and convert waste heat into a useful form of energy.
Innovation in Waste Heat technology has been significantly ramping up over the past few years. From 2007 to present, there have been almost 3,500 patents filed in the Waste Heat technology space. That is more than 5 times the number of filings compared to the previous six years combined (2001-2006) (See Chart 1). Using the Cleantech Patent Database we found that since 2008, 40 companies/research institutions have filed ten or more patents relating to waste heat technology. There are many new companies popping up on our radar every month working on Waste Heat ideas. Two companies to watch for are Echogen (founded in 2007) and Alphabet Energy (founded in 2009), both of whom have patent-pending technology according to their websites that focus specifically on waste heat recovery. Although we were unable to find any published patents filed under either of these companies’ names, we did identify patents filed by relevant members of their management or research teams.
However, the companies with the most waste heat patent filings over the past few years are large industrial corporations that have a huge incentive to figure out ways to harness waste heat, including GE, Shell Oil, Toyota, and Siemens (See Chart 2).