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Research Papers: Energy Systems Analysis

Prospects for Implementation of Thermoelectric Generators as Waste Heat Recovery Systems in Class 8 Truck Applications

[+] Author and Article Information
Giles Brereton, James Novak, George Zhu

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Michigan State University,
East Lansing, MI 48824

Eldon Case, Jeffery Sakamoto

Department of Chemical Engineering
and Materials Science,
Michigan State University,
East Lansing, MI 48824

Tim Hogan

Department of Electrical Engineering
and Computer Science,
Michigan State University,
East Lansing, MI 48824

Matt Lyle, Trevor Ruckle, Ed Timm

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Michigan State University,
East Lansing, MI 48824

Ryan Maloney, Long Zhang

Department of Chemical Engineering
and Materials Science,
Michigan State University,
East Lansing, MI 48824

Christopher Nelson

Cummins Inc.,
Columbus, IN 47201

Tom Shih

School of Aeronautics and Astronautics,
Purdue University,
West Lafayette, IN 47907

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the Journal of Energy Resources Technology. Manuscript received July 15, 2011; final manuscript received August 8, 2012; published online January 25, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Gunnar Tamm.

J. Energy Resour. Technol 135(2), 022001 (Jan 25, 2013) (9 pages) Paper No: JERT-11-1087; doi: 10.1115/1.4023097 History: Received July 15, 2011; Revised August 08, 2012

With the rising cost of fuel and increasing demand for clean energy, solid-state thermoelectric (TE) devices are an attractive option for reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Although they are reliable energy converters, there are several barriers that have limited their implementation into wide market acceptance for automotive applications. These barriers include: the unsuitability of conventional thermoelectric materials for the automotive waste heat recovery temperature range; the rarity and toxicity of some otherwise suitable materials; and the limited ability to mass-manufacture thermoelectric devices from certain materials. One class of material that has demonstrated significant promise in the waste heat recovery temperature range is skutterudites. These materials have little toxicity, are relatively abundant, and have been investigated by NASA-JPL for the past twenty years as possible thermoelectric materials for space applications. In a recent collaboration between Michigan State University (MSU) and NASA-JPL, the first skutterudite-based 100 W thermoelectric generator (TEG) was constructed. In this paper, we will describe the efforts that have been directed towards: (a) enhancing the technology-readiness level of skutterudites to facilitate mass manufacturing similar to that of Bi2Te3, (b) optimizing skutterudites to improve thermal-to-electric conversion efficiencies for class 8 truck applications, and (c) describing how temperature cycling, oxidation, sublimation, and other barriers to wide market acceptance must be managed. To obtain the maximum performance from these devices, effective heat transfer systems need to be developed for integration of thermoelectric modules into practical generators.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

Supply heat to hot side is engine exhaust; supply coolant is engine coolant or a separate fluid, there were 200 couples in TEG demonstrated in this work

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Fig. 2

Efficiency improvements using an EGR TEG and ERS-APU

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Fig. 3

Results of 10 skutterudite modules operated at a ΔT of 550 °C

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Fig. 4

Completely assembled 100 W-TEG (left) and subassembly module for the TEG (right). This is the largest thermoelectric generator built using skutterudite material, with dimensions of 6 in. diameter and 6 in. in length. All couples are in series facilitated by MSU-developed CBT.

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Fig. 5

Insulation test comparing commercially available insulation and CPAI

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Fig. 6

Heat and flow schematic

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Fig. 7

High-level TEG architecture

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Fig. 8

As Sb sublimes from the hot side of a skutterudite element, depletion or “necking” occurs on the hot side

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Fig. 9

TEG module architecture

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Fig. 10

Thermoelectric couple section and materials

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Fig. 11

Process 1—stresses at operating temperature. Deformation magnification factor of 175 and units of MPa.

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Fig. 12

Process 2—stresses after cooling to 30 °C. Evidence of plasticity is seen in both legs. Deformation magnification factor of 175 and units of MPa.

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