Browse Publications Technical Papers 2013-01-0559

Influence of Heat Pipe Operating Temperature on Exhaust Heat Thermoelectric Generation 2013-01-0559

Increasingly stringent targets on energy efficiency and emissions, as well as growing vehicle electrification are making attractive the electric recovery of the energy normally wasted through the tailpipe of Internal Combustion Engines. Recent developments in thermoelectrics (TE) may soon make them a viable solution for such applications [1].
This team has been exploring the potential of using TE modules in combination with variable conductance heat pipes for transferring the exhaust heat to the generator with very low thermal resistance and at a constant, prescribed temperature. This passive temperature control eliminates the need for by-pass systems in the event of temperature overshoots.
The operating temperature of a generator should be as high as possible in order to maximize the Seebeck effect. However, currently available modules are temperature limited. Moreover, the higher the HP temperature the less the usable thermal power at the exhaust will be (heat can only be transferred to from a hotter to a colder body).
The present work assesses both theoretically and experimentally the influence of the HP temperature in the electric output of a thermoelectric generator. A small diesel engine and a generator were tested and it was found that a high HP operating temperature is only limitative for performance in the cases where low exhaust temperature and low engine power are present. In those cases it is possible to estimate an optimal HP temperature in order to maximize power output. The combined use of Seebeck modules and heat pipes was found to be highly advantageous in various ways.


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