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Research Papers: Energy Systems Analysis

Development of a Circular Thermoelectric Skutterudite Couple Using Compression Technology

[+] Author and Article Information
Nariman Mansouri

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Michigan State University,
East Lansing, MI 48824
e-mail: mansou21@msu.edu

Edward J. Timm

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Michigan State University,
East Lansing, MI 48824
e-mail: timm@egr.msu.edu

Harold J. Schock

Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Michigan State University,
East Lansing, MI 48824
e-mail: schock@egr.msu.edu

Dipankar Sahoo

Thermal Management,
Tenneco, Inc.,
3901 Willis Road,
Grass Lake, MI 49240
e-mail: dsahoo@tenneco.com

Adam Kotrba

Research and Applied Science,
Tenneco, Inc.,
3901 Willis Road,
Grass Lake, MI 49240
e-mail: akotrba@tenneco.com

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESOURCES TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received July 24, 2015; final manuscript received January 17, 2016; published online March 10, 2016. Assoc. Editor: S. O. Bade Shrestha.

J. Energy Resour. Technol 138(5), 052003 (Mar 10, 2016) (12 pages) Paper No: JERT-15-1278; doi: 10.1115/1.4032619 History: Received July 24, 2015; Revised January 17, 2016

Approximately, 55% of the energy produced from conventional vehicle resources is lost due to heat losses. An efficient waste heat recovery process will lead to improved fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. Thermoelectric generators (TEGs) are heat recovery devices that are being widely studied by a range of energy-intensive industries. Efficient solid-state thermoelectric devices are good candidates to reduce fuel consumption in an automobile. Thermoelectric materials have had limited automotive applications due to the automotive waste heat recovery temperature range, the rarity and toxicity of some materials, and the limited ability to mass manufacture thermoelectric devices from expensive TE materials. However, skutterudite is one class of material that has demonstrated significant promise in the transportation waste heat recovery temperature domain. Durability and reliability of the TEGs are the most significant concerns in the product development process. Cracking of the materials at hot-side interface is found to be a major failure mechanism of TEGs under thermal loading. Cracking affects not only the structural integrity but also the energy conversion and overall performance of the system. In this paper, cracking of thermoelectric material as observed in performance testing is analyzed using numerical simulations and analytic experiments. This paper shows, with the help of finite element analysis (FEA), the detailed distribution of stress, strain, and temperature is obtained for each design. Finite element (FE)-based simulations show the tensile stresses as the primary factor causing radial and circumferential cracks in the skutterudite. For a TEG design, loading conditions and closed-form analytical solutions of stress/strain distributions are derived. Scenarios with minimum tensile stresses are sought. These approaches yield the minimum of stress/strain fields which produce cracks. Finally, based on these analyses and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) studies, strategies in tensile stress reduction and failure prevention are proposed.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME
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References

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Figures

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Fig. 1

ZT versus temperature of different materials [14]

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Fig. 2

Square leg technology thermoelectric components

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Fig. 3

Section view of a net-shaped, hot-pressed couple

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Fig. 4

Assembled and exploded view of the second-generation cylindrical thermoelectric couple

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Fig. 5

Assembled new circular couple with square legs

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Fig. 6

Section view of the couple and the marked face for stress calculation

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Fig. 7

Stress distribution: S—Mises and S11—radial

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Fig. 8

P-type skutterudite: radial and circumferential cracks

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Fig. 9

Stress distribution: S—Mises and S11—radial

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Fig. 10

Thermal cracks in the P leg

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Fig. 11

Section view of the meshed second-generation couple

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Fig. 12

Stress distribution: S—Mises and S11—radial

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Fig. 13

Jet impingement tube and two-couple assembly

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Fig. 14

Fluid flow in meshed region for two-couple module

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Fig. 15

Temperature distribution and velocity vectors for two-couple assembly

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Fig. 16

Meshed fluid region for five-couple assembly used in the 15-W prototype TEG

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Fig. 17

Temperature distribution in five-couple assembly

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Fig. 18

Velocity vectors in five-couple assembly

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Fig. 19

Averaged voltage and power output for circular couples in five-cycle test

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Fig. 20

Averaged voltage and power output for circular couples

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Fig. 21

Voltage and power output, Inconel hot shoe

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Fig. 22

Power output durability, Inconel hot shoe

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