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

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

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.
 
Description Key Finding:
The project accomplished its goals and a number of outstanding outcomes are summarised below:
1) Successfully developed a fabrication process of high temperature thermoelectric modules and fabricated a high-performance skutterudite thermoelectric module for the first time in the UK - nationally leading and internationally competitive. (Together with the skutterudite thermoelectric materials by Prof A Powell's group at University of Reading and brazing alloys by Johnson Matthew, we have demonstrated the capability of fabrication of skutterudite thermoelectric modules completely within UK).
2) Established a thermoelectric module evaluation system based on a novel principle proposed at Cardiff. The system facilitates automated measurements of both power output and conversion efficiency of thermoelectric modules.
3) Demonstrated for the first time in the world the possibility of measuring the thermal contact resistance of thermoelectric interfaces using Infrared Microscopy.
4) Discovered a possibility of detecting inter-diffusion region using an established travelling probe technique, which is used for determining the electrical contact resistance. This discovery added new capability to an old instrument.
5) Gained in-depth knowledge of several brazing alloys and their brazing conditions for the successful joining of thermoelectric materials with good mechanical strength and satisfactory thermal and electrical contact properties for high temperature operation.
Exploitation Route 1) The high temperature thermoelectric modules can be provided to other research organisations and R&D departments to explore economic and social benefits through waste heat recovery from natural and industrial processes, in particular, improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles from exhaust heat
2) The key technologies of fabricating thermoelectric modules developed in this project can be further explored by other researchers to develop new thermoelectric modules using different new thermoelectric materials.
3) The manufacturing processes/technologies developed in this project can be transferred to the UK industrial sectors through technology transfer or start-ups.
4) The thermoelectric evaluation systems developed in this project will offer new capabilities or measurement services or collaborations to the UK academic institutions or research organisations.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport

 
Description 1) The TE module evaluation system developed at Cardiff had been used to provide measurement services for European Thermodynamics Limited (a SME based in Leicestershire) to evaluate the performance of the modules under development at ETL. 2) The skutterudite module developed in this project had attracted interests of a UK chemicals company (Johnson Matthey Technology Centre), who setup internal research activity to assess commerical potential of this materials.
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Infrastructure for equipment
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation Cardiff University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2015 
End 07/2015
 
Description Screen printing project for development of thermoelectrics
Amount £10,200 (GBP)
Organisation European Thermodynamics 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2014 
End 06/2015
 
Description System integration of High Concentrator Photovoltaic and Thermoelectric devices for enhanced solar energy harvesting
Amount £99,621 (GBP)
Funding ID NRN152 
Organisation The Sêr Cymru National Research Network for Low Carbon, Energy and Environment (NRN-LCEE) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 03/2018
 
Title Thermoelectric module testing system 
Description A testing system for evaluating the performance of thermoelectric generator has been established based on a novel principle, which enables the determination of the power output, conversion efficiency and device effective ZT of thermoelectric generator. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This equipment enables the evaluation of the performances of thermoelectric device up to 500 C. This is crucial for the Cardiff Group to characterise and consequently demonstrate the success of fabrication of skutterudite based high temperature thermoelectric modules. 
 
Title Travelling probe for determination of thermoelectric junction contact resistance 
Description The apparatus provide the capability to measure the resistance profile across thermoelectric interfaces/junctions, which enables the determination of thermoelectric junction contact resistance. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Ensuring very low contact resistance at thermoelectric junction is crucial in successful fabrication of thermoelectric modules. This apparatus has provide an essential research tool for understanding and improving the contact resistance at thermoelectric interfaces and junctions. 
 
Description Collaboration with Beihang 
Organisation Beihang University
Department School of Materials Science and Engineering
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Cardiff Thermoelectric Laboratory has hosted in 2014 two visiting researchers (3 months each) from Beihang, providing facilities and training for collaborative research.
Collaborator Contribution Provide Bi2Te3 thin-film samples and manpower to work on collaborative research.
Impact one joint publication (submitted); 2 joint proposals drafted.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Knowledge exchange with Johnson Matthey 
Organisation Johnson Matthey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Themoelectric characterisation for Johnson Matthey.
Collaborator Contribution Providing bracing materials and know-how for thermoelectric module fabrication.
Impact The Cardiff group has successfully developed high temperature thermoelectric module using Johnson Matthey bracing materials.
Start Year 2013
 
Description , Towards cost effective and efficient energy generating skutterudite thermoelectric modules and the use of computational modelling to predict their properties 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An oral presentation at 14th European Conference on Thermoelectrics (Sept 2016, Lisbon, Portugal). Resulted in request for further information and exploring collaboration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.ctn.tecnico.ulisboa.pt/ect2016-conference/
 
Description A high-throughput approach towards accelerated discovery of promising thermoelectric materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote talk at IUMRS, Kyoto, Japan, 28/08 -01/09 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Investigating high temperature bonding at the thermoelectric-electrode interface using micro-resolved positional voltage profiling technique 34th Annual International Conference on Thermoelectrics & 13th European Conference on Thermoelectrics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An oral presentation at 34th International Conference on Thermoelectrics (July 2015, Dresden, Germany). Attracted huge amount of interests in our work and led to a collaboration with Dr Sima Aminoroaya-Yamini, University of Wellongang, Australia on study of contact resistance of PbTe junctions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Investigating material ZT properties and their translation into module performance 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Academic exchange, leading to further request for presentation slides and exploring future collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.thermoelectricnetwork.com/past-meetings-2016.html
 
Description Key Issues on in Design and Fabrication of Thermoelelctric Device - Thermoelectric Workshop, University of Southampton, 14th December 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk to over 50 audience from UK academic institution and industries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Knowledge dissemination to UK industrial and induvidual designers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Knowledge transfer activity to UK industrial and private designers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Manufacturing knowledge dissemination 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Knowledge dissemination (thermoelectric module fabrication technology developed by EPSRC supported project) to UK thermoelectric network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Research exchange with Beihang University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited academic exchange with Department of Materials, Beihang University, China, Activities include: seminar talk, postgraduate short course on thermoelectrics, laboratory visits and discussion of collaboration and researcher exchange.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Thermoelectric Materials and Devices for Energy Harvesting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact IOP Regional Seminar given at University of Huddersfield on 01/06/2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Thermoelectric O/C Relationship and Its Applications 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk delivered at NIMS, T Japan. Tsububa, Japan. Also Member of panel discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Thermoelectric interfaces: characterisation and evaluation for manufacturing high-quality thermoelectric modules 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An invited speaker at 14th European Conference on Thermoelectrics (ECT2016, September 2016, Lisbon Portugal), many requests for further information and my contact address for exploring future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.ctn.tecnico.ulisboa.pt/ect2016-conference/speakers.html