The MHD (magnetohydrodynamic) generator transforms thermal energy and kinetic energy directly into electricity. MHD generators are different from traditional electric generators in that they operate at high temperatures without moving parts. MHD was developed because the hot exhaust gas of an MHD generator is capable of heating the boilers of a steam power plant. MHD was developed as a topping cycle to increase the efficiency of electric generation, especially when burning coal or natural gas. MHD dynamos are the complement of MHD propulsors, which have been applied to pump liquid metals and in several experimental ship engines.
An MHD generator, like a conventional generator, relies on moving a conductor through a magnetic field to generate electric current. The MHD generator uses hot conductive plasma as the moving conductor. The mechanical dynamo, in contrast, uses the motion of mechanical devices to accomplish this. MHD generators are technically practical for fossil fuels, but have been overtaken by other, less expensive technologies, such as combined cycles in which a gas turbine's or molten carbonate fuel cell's exhaust heats steam for steam turbine.
Natural MHD dynamos are an active area of research in plasma physics and are of great interest to the geophysics and astrophysics communities, since the magnetic fields of the earth and sun are produced by these natural dynamos.
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