mattnyc99 writes "With top geeks saying photovoltaic cells are still four years away from costing as much as the grid, and the first U.S. thermal power plant just getting into production, there's plenty of solar hype without any practical solution that's efficient enough. Until Lonnie Johnson came along. The man who invented the Super Soaker water gun turns out to be a nuclear engineer who's developed a solid-state heat engine that converts the sun's heat to electricity at 60-percent efficiency—double the rate of the next most successful solar process. And his innovation, called the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Conversion (JTEC) system, is getting funding from the National Science Foundation, so this is no toy. From the article: 'If it proves feasible, drastically reducing the cost of solar power would only be a start. JTEC could potentially harvest waste heat from internal combustion engines and combustion turbines, perhaps even the human body. And no moving parts means no friction and fewer mechanical failures.'"