Identifying Cost Effective Routes To Optimised Energy Recovery For The Fuel Economy Of Vehicles

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


The internal combustion engine which is in everyday use in a wide variety of applications remains one of the most cost effective means of generating power. A typical engine however loses substantial amounts of energy in its normal operation and there is clear potential to utilise this energy. The largest flow is in the exhaust system of the vehicle, and it is here that the proposed research is focussed.
The main objective of the project is the realisation of an efficient method of energy recovery using a thermoelectric generator and utilising a new type of material known as a skutterudite. By adopting the same internal structure, skutterudites simulate a naturally occurring mineral which has the vital properties of low thermal conductivity with low electrical resistance. The principal advantage of these materials is their potential for cost reduction by utilising low cost metals in their structure. A second and important advantage is the future potential for novel manufacturing techniques in which the active elements of the thermoelectric generator are made using additive methods to build up the kind of complex shapes that are required.
The project brings together three universities that can cover the range of capabilities from the chemistry of materials through to systems integration methods.
The Heriot-Watt team will synthesise new materials using progressively lower cost materials to demonstrate that the required thermoelectric performance can be obtained using low cost materials. The Cardiff team will integrate modules, incorporating protective coatings to ensure the durability of the generator. At Loughborough, the scope to integrate thermo-electric (TE) generators with other functions such as after-treatment will be explored. The Loughborough team will work with the Cardiff team to identify novel methods of integrating the TE modules into a heat exchange device, regarding the requirements imposed by different types of engine.
The project concludes with the practical demonstration of TE generators and a portfolio of simulation results that demonstrate how the cost path and the path to levels of commercial performance will be realised.

Planned Impact

The aim of the project is the confirmation of a set of technologies as being the firm basis for energy recovery techniques. Energy recovery contributes to the fuel efficiency of vehicle propulsion and power generation, and will contribute to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions targets. The primary impact is in the availability of the technologies to potential users. Those users for the most part will be suppliers to the automotive, marine and industrial machinery sectors. For the manufacturers of machinery and engines, the immediate impact of the research will be an understanding of the scope and cost of energy recovery equipment. For their suppliers, the technology, its manufacturing implications, and cost of production will be understood.
For legislators and policy makers the availability of information about a cost effective route to energy efficiency is a major contribution to their assessment of feasible policy routes to lower energy usage.
The proposed path for materials development has the potential to initiate a wholly new supply chain. Skutterudite materials are not currently manufactured in bulk and their incorporation into TE modules is simply done in the lab. While a large company like JM will be in a strong position to develop the manufacture of skutterudites, because of their existing process expertise, module manufacture may well develop in SMEs and start-up companies. ETL is an example of an SME which has a niche interest in cooling that has begun to grow a business in TE module production for energy harvesting from waste heat.
There is a strong process aspect to the proposal and the successful demonstration of component in the loop techniques will allow their dissemination to the wider community. The modelling methods and test architecture will be made available through an open source arrangement as the first step to building an academic community to refine and develop these techniques. Modelling and optimisation methods are particularly important in this application. A wider dissemination of methods will enhance research efficiency while academic groups can continue to explore in confidence their own component and system technologies
For those with a broad interest in the feasibility of TE methods, we are proposing also to offer an open source application toolkit that will allow the investigation of operating conditions, material choices, and system configuration in relation to fuel economy gains. We believe that this kind of access will broaden interest and permit rational judgements to be made by potential users.
The proposal to explore the exhaust system as a single concept complete with its own operating environment (pressure and temperature) where key functions (energy recovery and after-treatment typically) are integrated is novel. This objective has the potential to open up new research agendas for academic colleagues in after-treatment, heat transfer and the application of turbocharging methods.
Outside of the ground vehicle sector, there is the potential for applications in the Aero sector in both power generation and temperature management of key components. The investigators have already had some discussions in this area with an Aero engine company. This initial interest sets the agenda for a wider discussion in other sectors. The involvement of Caterpillar with their large portfolio of products represents a strong potential.
Description From this research project, we have developed a novel new thermal electric material, developed the material into new thermal electric generator (TEG) and demonstrated the developed TEG on an engine. We have developed the TEG model capable of analysing both steady state and transient thermal and electric performance of the TEG unit. The model has been integrated with vehicle model to simulate and analyse the TEG performance in real-world driving conditions. The financial analysis showed the costs details and established the foundation of future automotive implementation strategy.
Exploitation Route The test data and models of integrating TEG with heat exchanger will be used by heat exchanger manufacturers and automotive developers. The financial analysis model will be used for industrial implementation strategy development.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Transport

Description Ricardo and Johnson Matthey have used the data and the model developed through this project into a financial analysis.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Transport
Impact Types Economic

Title Driving cycle-vehicle-engine-TEG modelling 
Description The model developed provided a systematic analysis of automobile exhaust waste heat energy recovery through TEG technologies in real-world driving. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Ricardo has used the model and developed a full vehicle energy saving and financial analysis of using TEG in real-world driving. 
Title Dynamic TEG system model 
Description The model simulates the transient thermal and electric behaviour of the TEG unit. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The model assisted the TEG development by the team at Cardiff University. 
Title TEG automotive business model 
Description The model provide a tool for financial analysis of implementing the TEG technology into various vehicle platforms, delivers the costs and energy benefit analysis. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact In collaboration with Ricardo, the model provides automotive industry an insight view of the TEG technology of future implementation strategy development. 
Title Thermal electrical module model 
Description The model provides a validated simulation of TEG unit includes thermal heat transfer and electricity generation. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The model assisted the research team at Cardiff University in developing the new TEG units. 
Title Vehicle TEG system model 
Description The model provides a validated simulation of the energy generation through TEG units quipped onto vehicle exhaust system. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The model is in collaboration with Prof. Lars Eriksson at Linköpings Universitet in Sweden. It provides the energy recovered from real world driving. 
Description Automotive economy analysis 
Organisation Ricardo UK Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The research team at Loughborough employed the financial data provided by Ricardo into our TEG model, and developed a full-scale financial analysis of the TEG technology of this project.
Collaborator Contribution Ricardo provided the project with automotive market analysis. These information were applied to the TEG and vehicle driving cycle model and developed the potential financial analysis of the TEG technology.
Impact TEG financial costing model.
Start Year 2014
Description New TEG materials development 
Organisation University of Reading
Department Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Team at Loughborough evaluated the performances of the TEG units built using the new novel materials developed by the Reading research team.
Collaborator Contribution The Reading team developed the new materials for the high temperature TEG units of this project.
Impact Engine performance using the new TEG materials.
Start Year 2013
Description New heat exchanger development 
Organisation Dana Incorporated
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The research team at Loughborough has applied the newly developed TEG units through this project onto the purposely designed and manufactured heat exchanger provided by Dana Incorporated
Collaborator Contribution Dana Incorporated designed and manufactured a new heat exchanger for the project to demonstrate the performance of the TEG units developed by this research project.
Impact Heat exchanger development;
Start Year 2014
Description TEG development and electrics 
Organisation Cardiff University
Department School of Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Loughborough team experimentally evaluated the TEG units developed by Cardiff team. Design criteria were developed through the modelling and experimental studies at Loughborough.
Collaborator Contribution The Cardiff team developed the new TEG units using the newly developed novel materials of this project. Significantly improved the new TEG performance.
Impact Joint paper is under preparation.
Start Year 2013
Description TEG material development and automotive applications 
Organisation Johnson Matthey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Research team at Loughborough provided Johnson Matthey the TEG performance data on engine operations, provided the system design criteria and future market analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Johnson Matthey provided the vehicle and the engine data and requirements. prepared the TEG materials.
Impact Economy analysis report of TEG for automotive applications.
Start Year 2014
Title Engine TEG prototype demonstration 
Description The project integrated the new TEG using the newly developed materials into a production internal combustion engine, demonstrated the engine system, and proved the potential of future real-world applications. 
Type Of Technology Systems, Materials & Instrumental Engineering 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The demonstration proved the concept of the technology, the material, and potential energy efficiency improvement. The demonstration highlighted the need of further research on operation, optimisation and control. 
Title Skutterudites thermoelectric materials 
Description This project developed a new thermoelectric material, Skutterudites. 
Type Of Technology New Material/Compound 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The new material significantly improves the TEG performance, at high temperature suitable form engine exhaust heat energy in particular. 
Title Skutterudites thermoelectric modules 
Description The project developed new material processing technique to build high temperature Skutterudites thermoelectric modules. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact In this project, we developed a new material processing technique, to process the newly developed Skutterudites into high efficient thermoelectric modules. 
Description Waste heat energy recovery 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Introduce high-school student the future low CO2 automotive propulsion. Waste heat energy recovery will play a significant role in achieving such target.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016