Power in MPs' 'hot air' weighed up
- 22 March 2013
- From the section Science & Environment
Students at the University of Leicester have calculated the power available from the "hot air" produced by MPs.
As part of a fourth-year project, students determined that 650 MPs produce more than 10kW of heat just through "prolonged speaking".
However, a separate study showed that MPs' breathy heat was insufficient for warming the Commons significantly.
The tongue-in-cheek project was designed to teach students how to prepare more weighty science articles.
"Discussions in the UK's House of Commons, particularly during Prime Minister's Questions, are well-known for fiery exchanges," Daniel Staab and co-authors wrote in the first study, Hot Air in the House of Commons.
"Given the lively nature of these debates, does the hot air exhaled by MPs constitute a significant heat source?"
The team determined that more than 2.5kW of power was contained just as heat in the air of their breath - providing they were all speaking continuously.
A further 7.8kW could be gained from the "latent heat" in the water vapour of MPs' breath - heat that is extracted as the water condenses again to a liquid.
In keeping with the methodical process of research science encouraged by the project, a follow-up study was carried out.
Emily Jane Watkinson and co-authors found that MPs' hot air cannot really be harnessed to save on energy bills.
In their paper Heat Loss in the House of Commons that in order to maintain a comfortable temperature of 20C, the heat would have to be turned on whenever the outside temperature dropped below 19.8C.
"A lot of the papers published in the journal [Physics Special Topics] are on subjects that are amusing, topical, or a bit off-the-wall," said course leader Mervyn Roy.
"Because Physics Special Topics is run exactly like a professional journal, the students get the chance to develop all the skills they will need when dealing with high-profile journals like Nature or Science later on in life."