Efficiency and output of thin-film thermoelectric power generators doubles

Powering remote sensors is largest market application for this developing micro power technology.

By Control Engineering Staff June 25, 2009

Nextreme Thermal Solutions, a supplier of microscale thermal and power management products for the electronics industry, says it has doubled the efficiency and power output of its thin-film thermoelectric power generator. By modifying the thermoelectric epitaxial materials, Nextreme claims it has been able to increase the power conversion efficiency and power output by a factor of two compared with standard thin-film thermoelectric generators operating under the same heat input conditions.
Nextreme’s thin-film embedded thermoelectric generator (eTEG) produces

Chart shows difference in power efficiency between Nextreme’s 16um thick epi (which is typical for Nextreme) to a thicker epi of 35um . Both are considered thin films. Source: Nextreme Thermal Solutions.

electricity via the Seebeck effect, where electricity is produced from a temperature differential applied across the device. At 9W of heat input power, the devices produced in this program generated 247mW of output power, equivalent to 2.6% power conversion efficiency.
The concept of generating clean power from waste heat is attracting increased attention worldwide. Current applications that stand out in this arena, both in terms of feasibility and market size, are micro power (e.g., powering remote sensors or other portable applications) and automobile waste heat energy conversion. Remote power is the immediately feasible of the two with current technology; and the market for this technology is sizable. According to Nextreme, sensors represent a total available market of 8 billion units by 2012; while only a portion of this market will benefit from remote power, a reasonable estimate puts the ultimate potential at more than 100 million units per year for this application.

Nextreme eTEC UPF40 Thermoelectric Cooling Evaluation Kit is an easy-to-use, self-contained platform for conducting demonstrations of thin-film thermoelectric cooling technology.

This advance is the result of a development program at Nextreme, made possible by a grant from the North Carolina Green Business Fund, to enhance the efficiency of its devices used to convert waste heat into electricity.
See more information on how Nextreme converts waste heat into usable energy .
Read other Control Engineering articles related to power generation from waste heat:

  • Energy Management: First Steps Toward Greater Efficiency, Part Two

  • Gas Station Makes its Own Fuel?

– Edited by David Greenfield , editorial director

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