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Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting 2014-2024: Devices, Applications, Opportunities

Thermoelectric generators are devices which convert temperature differences into electrical energy. The principle phenomenon that underpins thermoelectric energy generation is known as the Seebeck effect: the conversion of a temperature differential into electricity at the junction of two materials.

Although thermoelectric phenomena have been used for heating and cooling applications quite extensively, electricity generation has only seen very limited market in niche applications and it is only in recent years that interest has increased regarding new applications of energy generation through thermoelectric harvesting.

The new applications are varied and the vertical markets benefiting from new devices range from condition monitoring in industrial environments, smart metering in energy market segments, to thermoelectric applications in vehicles, either terrestrial or other.

This report gives an overview of devices, materials and manufacturing processes, with a specific focus on emerging technologies that allow for new functionality, form factor and application in various demanding environments. Whether it is operation in high temperatures or corrosive environments, applications with increased safety demands or components that need to be thin, flexible, or even stretchable, there is a lot of research and development work worldwide which is highlighted.

Included in the report are interviews with potential adopters of thermoelectric energy harvesters and their views of the impact that the technology could have over their respective industries. Some of the application sectors include:

  • Waste heat recovery systems in vehicles: A large number of car companies, including Volkswagen, VOLVO, FORD and BMW in collaboration with NASA have been developing thermoelectric waste heat recovery systems in-house, each achieving different types of performance but all of them expecting to lead to improvements of 3-5% in fuel economy while the power generated out of these devices could potentially reach up to 1200W.
  • Wireless sensor network adoption. Wireless sensors powered by thermogenerators in environments where temperature differentials exist would lead to avoiding issues with battery lifetime and reliability. It would also lead to the ability to move away from wired sensors, which are still the solution of choice when increased reliability of measurement is necessary. Some applications have low enough power demands to operate with small temperature differentials, as small as a few degrees in some cases. These types of developments increase adoption trends.
  • Consumer applications: In these applications, the type of solution that thermogenerators provide varies: it could be related to saving energy when cooking by utilising thermo-powered cooking sensors, powering mobile phones, watches or other consumer electronics, even body sensing could become more widespread with sensory wristbands, clothing or athletic apparel that monitor vitals such as heart rate, body temperature, etc.

Finally, utilising solid assumptions based on the knowledge acquired through extensive primary research and the understanding of the way existing and new markets develop over time, 10-year IDTechEx market forecasts are included in the report.

Table of Contents

1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

2. INTRODUCTION

  • 2.1. The Seebeck and Peltier effects
  • 2.2. Designing for thermoelectric applications
  • 2.3. Thin film thermoelectric generators
  • 2.4. Material choices
  • 2.5. Organic thermoelectrics - PEDOT:PSS, not just a transparent conductor

3. OTHER PROCESSING TECHNIQUES

  • 3.1. Manufacturing of flexible thermoelectric generators
  • 3.2. AIST technology details

4. APPLICATIONS

  • 4.1. Automotive applications
    • 4.1.1. BMW
    • 4.1.2. Ford
    • 4.1.3. Volkswagen
  • 4.2. Wireless sensing
    • 4.2.1. TE-qNODE
    • 4.2.2. TE-CORE
    • 4.2.3. EverGen PowerStrap
    • 4.2.4. WiTemp
    • 4.2.5. GE- Logimesh
  • 4.3. Aerospace
  • 4.4. Wearable/implantable thermoelectrics
  • 4.5. Building and home automation
  • 4.6. Other applications
    • 4.6.1. Micropelt-MSX
    • 4.6.2. PowerPot™

5. INTERVIEWS - COMMERCIALIZATION CONSIDERATIONS

  • 5.1. Ford
  • 5.2. Microsemi
  • 5.3. MSX Micropelt
  • 5.4. Rolls Royce
  • 5.5. TRW
  • 5.6. Volvo

6. MARKET FORECASTS

7. COMPANY PROFILES

  • 7.1. EVERREDtronics
  • 7.2. Ferrotec
  • 7.3. Gentherm
  • 7.4. Global Thermoelectric
  • 7.5. greenTEG
  • 7.6. GZM Energy
  • 7.7. Hi Z
  • 7.8. KELK Ltd.
  • 7.9. Laird / Nextreme
  • 7.10. Marlow
  • 7.11. mc10
  • 7.12. Micropelt
  • 7.13. National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology (AIST)
  • 7.14. Perpetua
  • 7.15. RGS Development
  • 7.16. Romny Scientific
  • 7.17. Tellurex
  • 7.18. Thermolife Energy Corporation
  • 7.19. Yamaha

TABLES

  • 1.1. Market forecasts for thermoelectric energy harvesters in different applications 2014-2024 (US$ million)
  • 6.1. Market forecasts for thermoelectric energy harvesters in different applications 2014-2024 (US$ million)

FIGURES

  • 1.1. Market forecasts for thermoelectric energy harvesters in different applications 2014-2024 (US$ million)
  • 1.2. Global Thermoelectric implementations
  • 2.1. Representation of the Peltier (left) and the Seebeck (right) effect
  • 2.2. A general overview of the sequential manufacturing steps required in the construction of thermoelectric generators
  • 2.3. Generic schematic of thermoelectric energy harvesting system
  • 2.4. Figure of merit for some thermoelectric material systems
  • 2.5. Orientation map from a skutterudite sample
  • 2.6. Power Density and Sensitivity plotted for a variety of TEGs at a ΔT=30K
  • 2.7. % of Carnot efficiency for thermogenerators for different material systems
  • 2.8. Bulk Bi2Te3 sample consolidated from nanostructured powders that were formed by gas atomization, then hot pressed together
  • 2.9. Calculated figure-of-merit ZT for doped PbSe at various hole concentrations (main plot) and electron concentrations (inset)
  • 2.10. Experimental ZT values for PbSe
  • 2.11. The skutterudite crystal lattice structure
  • 2.12. A sample of skutterudite ore
  • 2.13. Polyhedral morphology of a ZrNiSn single crystal
  • 2.14. Atomic force micrograph of nanowire-polymer composite films of varying composition, and schematic of highly conductive interfacial phase
  • 3.1. A typical thermoelectric element
  • 3.2. Schematic of the inside of a typical thermoelectric element
  • 3.3. Sputtered thermoelectric material on wafer substrate
  • 3.4. Detail of thermocouple legs. (3.3mmx3.3mm area containing 540 thermocouples, 140mV/K)
  • 3.5. Electrochemically deposited Bi2Te3 legs with high aspect ratios
  • 3.6. The fabrication method of the CNT-polymer composite material (top), and an electron microscope image of its surface (lower)
  • 3.7. A flexible thermoelectric conversion film fabricated by using a printing process (left) and its electrical power-generation ability (right). A temperature difference created by placing a hand on the film installed on the 10 °C pla
  • 4.1. Energy losses in a vehicle
  • 4.2. Opportunities to harvest waste energy
  • 4.3. Ford Fusion, BMW X6 and Chevrolet Suburban. US Department of Energy thermoelectric generator programs
  • 4.4. Pictures from the BMW thermogenerator developments, as part of EfficientDynamics
  • 4.5. Ford's anticipate 500W power output from their thermogenerator
  • 4.6. The complete TEG designed by Amerigon
  • 4.7. High and medium temperature TE engines
  • 4.8. Modelled power generation vs. exhaust mass flow for different cold inlet temperatures
  • 4.9. FTP-75 Drive cycle simulation results: Exhaust gas flow, exhaust gas temperature and resulting power generation
  • 4.10. The Micropelt-Schneider TE-qNODE
  • 4.11. The TE-qNODE in operation, attached to busbars
  • 4.12. The TE Core from Micropelt
  • 4.13. The EverGen PowerStrap from Marlow
  • 4.14. EverGen PowerStrap performance graphs
  • 4.15. EverGen exchangers can vary in sizes from a few cubic inches to several cubic feet. Pictured also, a schematic of a TEG exchanger's main components
  • 4.16. ABB's WiTemp wireless temperature transmitter
  • 4.17. GE's wireless sensor with Perpetua's Powerpuck
  • 4.18. Logimesh's Logimote, developed in collaboration with Marlow
  • 4.19. A drawing of a general purpose heat source (GPHS)-RTG used for Galileo, Ulysses, Cassini-Huygens and New Horizons space probes
  • 4.20. One of the Cassini spacecraft's three RTGs, photographed before installation
  • 4.21. Labelled cutaway view of the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator
  • 4.22. Nuclear-powered pace maker, Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • 4.23. Power emanating from various parts of the human body
  • 4.24. The en:key products: A thermoelectric powered radiator valve and solar powered central control unit for home automation applications
  • 4.25. The sentinel, a window positioning sensor developed by the Fraunhofer institute in Germany
  • 4.26. Thermoelectric Energy harvesting on hot water/gas pipes
  • 4.27. MSX-Micropelt cooking sensor
  • 4.28. PowerPot with basic USB charger se
  • 4.29. Backside of the PowerPot™, showing the flame resistant cable and connector
  • 6.1. Market forecasts for WSN 2014-2024
  • 6.2. Market forecasts for military & aerospace 2014-2024
  • 6.3. Market forecasts for other industrial 2014-2024
  • 6.4. Market forecasts for healthcare 2014-2024
  • 6.5. Market forecasts for other consumer 2014-2024
  • 6.6. Market forecasts for other non-consumer 2014-2024
  • 6.7. Total market forecasts for thermoelectric energy harvesters in different applications 2014-2024
  • 7.1. The three main parts of a Global Thermoelectric solid state generator: a burner, the thermopile and cooling fins
  • 7.2. 5000W for SCADA communications and cathodic protection of a gas pipeline - India
  • 7.3. Small, flexible thermoelectric generators from greenTEG
  • 7.4. Detail of fabricated gTEG™
  • 7.5. A greenTEG micro thermoelectric generator
  • 7.6. Thermoelectric generation module to be commercialized by KELK
  • 7.7. Nextreme's evaluation kit
  • 7.8. TheaeTEG™ HV37 Power Generator
  • 7.9. A stretchable array of inorganic LEDs
  • 7.10. Micropelt's thermal energy harvester integrated with a wirelessHART sensor in action
  • 7.11. Thermoelectric conversion film devices fabricated by printing
  • 7.12. Schematic of Perpetua's Flexible Thermoelectric Film™ technology
  • 7.13. n-type Mg2SixSny produced by Romny give ZT of ~ 0.83 at 300 °C
  • 7.14. Mg-Silicide ingots, hot pressed by Romny Scientific
  • 7.15. Comparison of stability during cycling: Cycle type: heating up to 350°C within 30 minutes, cooling down to ambient within 90 minutes
  • 7.16. Examples of exhaust and body heat at Yamaha
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