There are many ways in which the energy around us can be stored, converted, and developed for use. Energy exists in two basic types: potential energy, including chemical, elastic, gravitational, and nuclear energies, and kinetic energy, including heat, electrical, and electromagnetic energies. It is often necessary to convert one type of energy to another type or other types of energy. However, human engineering and nature take very different paths to complete such conversion processes. This paper discusses the similarities and dissimilarities of energy conversion processes that are taken by nature and human engineering. One might notice that energy conversion efficiency in biological systems is often higher than what human engineering can offer. As an attempt to mimic nature’s way of energy conversion on the nanoscale, our experiment indicates that nanocatalytic particles can convert chemical energy directly to thermal energy without conventional high-temperature gas-phase combustion and without the traditional ignition process. Furthermore, we have converted chemical energy to thermal energy and thermal energy to electrical energy on semiconductor materials, an achievement that raises the possibility of constructing a new class of nano-thermoelectric power generation systems.

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