Flexible Printed Thermoelectric Textiles for Low Temperature Waste Heat Energy Harvesting Systems

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Printed-thermopiles embedded pipe insulation was constructed and demonstrated successfully the feasibility of generating power by wrapping the constructed insulation around a heat pipe. The global need for clean and sustainable energy along with recent advances in thermoelectrics (TE) has improved opportunities for waste heat recovery. Large area industrial application of traditional thermoelectric generators can be limited by high fabrication costs, the sue of toxic semiconductor materials, and rigid structures which causes the TE technology to be less attractive in terms of lower cost per watt. In this study, an examination is made toward fabricating flexible thermopile structures using conductive inks utilizing less expensive printing techniques and high throughput textile technology towards reducing the cost per watt. As a demonstration, printed Ag-Ni thermopile structures on Kapton® were connected electrically in series and embedded into a pipe insulation. A heat pip testing apparatus was constructed to analyze the performance of the thermopile structures, in addition to factors that affect the power generation. Optimization methods for thermopile structure, ink selection, and design implementation is summarized. The concept of embedding thermopiles into pipe insulation and utilize them for waste heat without affecting insulating properties has a large market opportunity in industrial steam pipe insulation.

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Journal: TechConnect Briefs
Volume: 4, Advanced Manufacturing, Electronics and Microsystems: TechConnect Briefs 2015
Published: June 14, 2015
Pages: 25 - 28
Industry sector: Advanced Materials & Manufacturing
Topic: Advanced Manufacturing
ISBN: 978-1-4987-4730-1