A Flexible Way To Convert Waste Heat To Electricity

Researchers in Japan have engineered an inexpensive flexible material which could help harvest heat energy that would otherwise be lost.

AsianScientist (Dec. 27, 2018) – A research group in Japan has developed an inexpensive, large-scale and flexible thermoelectric generator (FlexTEG) that has high mechanical reliability and can convert heat into electricity efficiently. The findings are published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

Thermoelectric conversion is one of the most attractive techniques for converting low-temperature (150°C or lower) waste heat into electric power. However, widespread adoption of this technology has been hampered by a lack of suitable packaging techniques for thermoelectric generation modules that can operate in the 100-150°C range. In addition, the production cost of modules for generating power at room temperature was prohibitive.

In the present study, scientists at Osaka University, Japan, have developed a method to manufacture thermoelectric generation modules in a cost-efficient manner while preserving the conversion efficiency of the modules. They mounted small thermoelectric semiconductor chips on a flexible substrate and were able to achieve reliable and stable adhesion of the electrical contacts between the chips and the flexible substrate. They called their invention FlexTEG.

A unique feature of their FlexTEG module was the parallel integration of electrodes, which allowed the module to be bent in any uniaxial direction. The parallel alignment of electrodes reduced the mechanical stress on individual thermoelectric semiconductor chips, thereby improving the overall mechanical reliability of the FlexTEG module.

“Our FlexTEG module can be used as a conversion thermoelectric generator module for waste heat of 150°C or lower. Its mounting technique is based on conventional semiconductor packaging techniques, allowing mass production and lowering the cost of thermoelectric conversion modules,” said lead author Assistant Professor Tohru Sugahara of Osaka University.

The article can be found at: Sugahara et al. (2018) Fabrication with Semiconductor Packaging Technologies and Characterization of a Large‐Scale Flexible Thermoelectric Module.


Source: Osaka University.
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