Thermoelectrics – heat becomes a voltage

The invention of thermoelectric enabled the generation of energy through wasted heat. Driving, cooking and many more energy consuming, domestic activities use only a fraction of the produced energy, the same applies to the burning of coal, gas and oil. Most of the energy gets lost to waste heat. Thermoelectric could be an efficient solution to this problem.

Thermoelectric is the direct conversion of heat into electricity and therefore generates a thermoelectric device a voltage when there is a different temperature on each side.

Still is the technology not widespread and relatively unknown. Manly because only material with a low degree of efficiency is well-known. Nevertheless is the cool bag a steady companion for every picnic but that is also one of the few established every day, thermo electrical inventions. Not out of our everyday life but even more interesting is the use in outer space. Astronautics uses thermoelectric for the energy supply of their spacecrafts (Voyager, Cassini and New Horizons).

In the Frauenhoferinstitut in Freiburg is devotedly thermo electric research done. The researchers promise the technique a great future. Energy harvesting is the predicted future. The researchers have the following application in mind:

  • Heat Recovery at High Temperatures
  • Utilization of waste heat for production of electricity in power plants, incineration facilities
  • Utilization of waste heat for production of electricity for electronic systems in automobiles
  • Utilization of waste heat for production of electricity in industrial processes
  • Utilization of Minor Temperature Differences
  • Energy self-sufficient sensor networks for measurement and control in various application fields:
  • automatic control of air conditioning in buildings
  • monitoring of material fatigue in motor vehicles/aircraft
  • wireless control of service functions, e.g. in the transport sector
  • wireless medical sensors
  • body sensor networks
  • ambient assisted living (technical aids for people requiring assistance)

One center of research is the energy generation out of exhaust emission. 3/4 of the primary produced energy in cars is wasted, a big amount through heat.TH researchers at the Frauenhoferinstitut claim that thermo electric could reuse this heat to produce electricity for avionics.



Faz: Ute Bilow


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