Sunday, October 07, 2007

Amerigon (ARGN) and Thermoelectric Devices, Your Time has Come

I'm always on the lookout for a way to gain a trading edge using my scientific training or experience. The hope is that I'll be able to see the true potential of a given high-tech product before Wall Street because I already have an intimate knowledge of that product in the lab.

I have always been fascinated with thermoelectric devices. I used these cool little technological wonders in many of the laser systems I worked on in graduate school. A fairly standard way to generate laser light in the mid-infrared region of the spectrum is to pass another shorter wavelength (high energy) laser through a specially designed crystal (wiki page) that "breaks" the incoming photon into two longer wavelength (low energy) photons. Using the proper crystal, operating at the proper temperature, one can cover a wide range of the infrared spectrum.

Thermoelectric devices are ideal for controlling the temperature of the laser crystal. They are very reliable and can both heat and cool, depending on which way the current flows through the device.

When I first learned about these guys I was amazed by how well they worked. I instantly came up with many of my own ideas of how these devices could be applied to everyday problems. One of my ideas was to place these things in car seats. Everyone knows about car seat heaters, but I grew up in Southern California and all I wanted was a seat that cooled my backside on hot summer days. A properly designed thermoelectric car seat could do both. As it turns out, someone else has already thought of this and are now well on their way to changing the future of car seats.

The company is named Amerigon (ARGN). They are currently selling their seats to car companies and are doing pretty well. The reality is, however, that car seats are just the tip of the iceberg. If the people at Amerigon have any imagination whatsoever, I'm sure we will see many more interesting applications for their products. One particularly promising application will rely on another interesting feature of thermoelectric devices. In the conventional application, a current is passed through the element and one side of it is heated while the other is cooled. Interestingly, if one places the element between an exterior heat gradient (one side hot, the other side cool) the device will produce a current, thus becoming a possible electrical power source. Just think of the possibilities, especially with energy prices continuing to rise.

As for a chart, it looks pretty good. I'm going to keep a close eye on it and will not let it get away from me if it breaks to the upside. ARGN is on the IBD 100, so beware. While you can find thermoelectric devices being used in such mundane applications as wine and beer coolers, I think Amerigon is thinking on the scale that will get these cool little solid-state devices into everyday life. Maybe I'll send them a resume.

No comments: