Every day vast amounts of waste heat energy into the environment. Electricity production alone accounts for the production of 25% of greenhouse gasses. So, it’s no surprise a clean energy movement has swept the globe with a major focus on reusing the energy we currently create. That’s why recent breakthroughs in thermoelectricity for waste heat recovery is so exciting. Thermoelectric technology recaptures lost heat and converts it to electrical power in an ongoing cycle. The applications for this technology have the potential to create cost-efficient, reusable and reliable energy for multiple industries.
Successful oil and gas production demand a constant supply of energy to a plant or refinery. This energy is typically provided by a generator like a gas turbine which emits significant amounts of waste heat into the environment; an expensive process, both environmentally and cost-wise. Thermoelectric power generation technology offers an alternative.
Hot and cold side heat exchangers applied with a thermoelectric power generation system harness waste heat and convert it to useful DC power, thereby enabling high performance under extreme temperatures. This power can be supplied back to the grid or power various other systems, in turn reducing dependency on generators and increasing the efficiency of energy consumption. Thermoelectric generators are low maintenance and generate zero emissions, they are also have very low maintenance costs.
Aerospace and Defense
UVA Engineering is currently researching thermoelectric materials as a way to improve efficiency of jet engines. Patrick Hopkins, professor and a director of Ph.D. studies in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UVA, identified the potential of the voltage, which comes from a temperature change in the engines’ coating material, to provide the increased efficiency.
“We soon discovered that, if we produced a coating that could not only survive in the hot environment but also produce current, we could harvest electricity that is then used to support the aircraft. The efficiencies that come from harvesting even an incremental amount of energy can lead to millions of dollars in savings for our airline industry.” said Dr. Patrick Hopkins.
A typical automobile converts only about one-quarter of its fuel’s energy content into useful power to move the vehicle. The remaining energy is consumed by a variety of irreversible losses dominated by waste heat dissipation through the radiator and engine exhaust. This inefficient use of fuel proves costly to the consumer and damaging to the environment.
II-VI Marlow has provided prototype thermoelectric waste heat recovery subsystems to address this issue. Utilizing the wasted thermal energy normally exhausted to the atmosphere enables automakers to reduce the size of the alternator currently used to generate a vehicle’s electrical power. This makes the engine more efficient, consuming less fuel and decreasing its negative impact on the environment.
These are just some of the ways that thermoelectric technology can be used to create a more efficient, cleaner and reusable energy. To learn more about applications that range from generators to sensors visit www.marlow.com.