Performance evaluation of an automotive thermoelectric generator
Around 40% of the total fuel energy in typical internal combustion engines (ICEs) is rejected to the environment in the form of exhaust gas waste heat. Efficient recovery of this waste heat in automobiles can promise a fuel economy improvement of 5%. The thermal energy can be harvested through thermoelectric generators (TEGs) utilizing the Seebeck effect. In the present work, a versatile test bench has been designed and built in order to simulate conditions found on test vehicles. This allows experimental performance evaluation and model validation of automotive thermoelectric generators. An electrically heated exhaust gas circuit and a circulator based coolant loop enable integrated system testing of hot and cold side heat exchangers, thermoelectric modules (TEMs), and thermal interface materials at various scales. A transient thermal model of the coolant loop was created in order to design a system which can maintain constant coolant temperature under variable heat input. Additionally, as electrical heaters cannot match the transient response of an ICE, modelling was completed in order to design a relaxed exhaust flow and temperature history utilizing the system thermal lag. This profile reduced required heating power and gas flow rates by over 50% The test bench was used to evaluate a DOE/GM initial prototype automotive TEG and validate analytical performance models. The maximum electrical power generation was found to be 54 W with a thermal conversion efficiency of 1.8%. It has been found that thermal interface management is critical for achieving maximum system performance, with novel designs being considered for further improvement.
Xu, Purdue University.
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