This miniature thermoelectric power generator improves system performance and extends the lifespan of portable electronic devices and wireless sensor nodes. As electronic devices become smaller while taking on additional functions, they demand increasingly higher energy density capacities. Available batteries for portable electronics have failed to meet this demand. Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a miniature thermoelectric power generator that uses cylindrical structure instead of the traditional plate structure. It supports environmental energy harvesting to generate power for local distributed sensor networks or wireless devices that never require battery charging or replacement. Since thermoelectric devices have no moving parts and are thus robust, reliable, and completely silent in operation, this power generator allows for greater efficiency, integration and reliability.
A thermoelectric power generator that improves the efficiency of devices such as energy harvesters, thermally powered sensors, and communication nodes as well as alternative energy sources
The micromachined device converts environmentally available waste heat into electrical power through the thermoelectric effect. It uses a cylindrical structure instead of the traditional parallel plate configuration for better coupling to hot fluid streams (gasses or liquids). For example, the generator can extract waste heat from engine exhaust, coolant lines, steam lines, etc. Because the device is microfabricated in silicon, it can be more easily combined with other MEMS and CMOS devices for integrated sensing, actuation, data processing, control and communications. The device can locally power sensors for automotive, aerospace, industrial and military applications, or it could be configured as a standalone power plant using a heat engine or microcombustor.