Bipolymers help convert waste heat to electricity

German cleantech startup Poligy claims its new Bipolymers technology could help unlock the huge untapped value in waste heat.


Developed by chemist and company co-founder Martin Huber, Bipolymers are two-ply plastic strips that form a wheel or band in thermal engines and solar modules. The plastic strips contract and expand depending on temperature, creating a movement in the wheel or belt which then generates electricity.

According to a recent study conducted by Global Market Insights, the global waste heat market will grow from $40bn in 2018 to more than $80bn by 2025. Around half of all waste heat goes completely unused, one of the reasons being the need to either utilise it immediately or spend money converting it to electricity. Poligy says that Bipolymers can convert solar and industrial waste heat into electricity at a cheaper cost than any previous technology.

“Until now, there has been no cheap technology alternative that can produce green electricity from waste heat at temperatures between 50° Celsius and 200° Celsius. In addition, the thermal engines and Bipolymers can be produced in large quantities and at low cost," explains Huber.

Furthermore, Poligy says the cost of a Bipolymer heat engine is lower than photovoltaic systems. Huber and his team are investigating whether the Bipolymer modules can produce electricity, hot water and heat, while also storing excess energy. With photovoltaics, consumers must often buy expensive additional equipment such as energy storage devices and solar thermal systems to heat water.

"On the other hand, Bipolymers can be recycled more cheaply than solar cells because, unlike photovoltaic systems, our systems do not contain traces of toxic heavy metals. This is also good for the environment,” said Huber.

At StartupCon 2018, Germany's largest start-up fair, Poligy received the international Chem Startup Award in the "New Materials" category. The company was also included in the Top 100 list of "Start-Up Energy Transition (SET)" as one of the world's most important energy start-ups.