One of things I like to do, as you know, is to run an order-of-magnitude calculation when I see a claim that seems off, to see if it’s plausible.
This claim caught my eye
Tan Kai Jun, the team leader, envisions cabin seats upholstered with a thermoelectric fabric that can convert a person’s energy into 100 nanowatts of voltage. Alas, that amounts to about one-millionth of what your iPhone needs to stay on standby. Still, Jun maintains that it does ultimately add up.
“It’s a small amount, but imagine this collected from 550 seats throughout 10 hours of flight. A plane has a lifespan of a few hundred flights — over time that’s a big reduction,” he says.
This one’s pretty easy. Ignoring that nanoWatts is a power, not a voltage, let’s assume a 10 hour flight. That gets you a total of 1 microWatt-hour per passenger. Let’s be generous and assume 1000 flights, which gets you to a milliWatt hour. Another further generous assumption of 1000 passengers gets you to a Watt hour. I think you can see where this is going. US grid electricity costs around ten cents per kiloWatt-hour. Even if we assume that the cost of electricity on a plane is ~100x more than commercial US electricity, because of the inefficiency, this system will save, at most, a penny over the lifetime of the plane. If the components and installation are free, that is, and the weight of the system costs no additional fuel.
So, not a big reduction.