P07442: Thermo-Electric Demo Device

Project Readiness Package

Table of Contents

Administrative Information

Project Name
Thermo-Electric Demo Device
Project Number
Project Family
P07440 Next Generation Thermo-Electric Systems
Sustainable Products, Systems, and Technologies Track
Start Term
End Term
Faculty Guide
Dr. Robert Stevens (ME)
Faculty Consultant
Dr. Robert Stevens (ME)
Primary Customer
Dr. Robert Stevens (ME)
Secondary Customer
Dr. Hensel (ME Dept. Head)
Primary Customer Contact Information
Dr. Robert Stevens
Mechanical Engineering Department
Secondary Customer Contact Information
Dr. Edward Hensel, PE
Professor and Head

Project Overview

The mission of this student team is to develop a test bed to test future thermoelectric heat exchanger designs that could be used for vehicle exhaust heat recovery for power generation. The test bed will simulate a vehicle exhaust stream in order to generate power from waste heat within the exhaust.

Staffing Requirements

Team Member Discipline Role / Skills email address
Dr. Robert Stevens ME Faculty Guide, Will work closely with the team on an on-going basis to facilitate success. rjseme@rit.edu
Mat Balduzzi ME Project Manager mrb8159@rit.edu
ME Student 1 ME Mechanical Design, Solidworks/Pro-Engineer, Structural Analysis, Manufacturing
ME Student 2 ME Mechanical Design (DAQ System), Manufacturing
ME Student 3 ME Thermal Analysis, Manufacturing
EE Student 1 EE Controls and Data Acquisition (Labview)
EE Student 2 EE Controls and Data Acquisition (P07301 DAQ System)

Continuation, Platform, or Building Block Project Information

The mission of the Next Generation Thermo-Electric Systems family of projects is to develop a foothold for RIT KGCOE in a new power generation technology. The family of projects will begin in the winter quarter (2006-2) with the launch of two related projects, P07441 Thermo-Electric Module Test Stand and P07442 Thermo-Electric Demo Device. P07441 will allow for a better understanding as to the performance of commercially available thermoelectric modules and the specifics on how the modules work. P07442 will then create a test bed for thermoelectric heat exchangers designed for waste heat recoverty power generation. These first couple of projects for Next Generation Thermo-Electric Systems will serve as a foundation for the understanding of thermoelectric technology to provide a backbone for additional projects within the family.

Principle Sponsor or Sponsoring Organization

This project is supported through funding provided by Dr. Stevens with the allocation of approximately $10,000-$15,000 to the Next Generation Thermo-Electric Systems family of projects. The interest in thermoelectric technology stems from the desire to create a strong foundation for the KGCOE at RIT in this emerging technology. Motivation for these projects comes from Dr. Stevens' involvement in the Energy & Environment option within the Mechanical Engineering Department, and the desire to gain outside sponshorship for further development of thermoelectric projects.

Detailed Project Description

Customer Interviews

1) What are some possible design limitations when using thermoelectrics?

It mainly depends on the extent to which delta T is going to be. There should not be a limit on the value of delta T, but delta T will determine which materials and modules you choose for the desired application.

2) What are the power requirements of a single module?

Normally, power requirements will depend on the application and the change in temperature that exists across the module.

Operating life under static load has reached 400,000 hours in some applications.

3) What are some current applications of thermoelectrics?

Currently, some applications that exist are in the way of cooling applications. Main applications include refrigeration in small-scale refrigerators and wine coolers.

There is potential for applications in the automotive industry using the braking system or exhaust to recover energy in the form of heat that is normally lost.

4) What are some price ranges for current thermoelectric modules on the market?

For modules currently sold, prices are steady at around $100 per module or slightly less.

5) Are the two functions of thermoelectric modules separate from one another?

The power vs. cooling application of thermoelectrics occur separately.

6) What are the added benefits of 2-Tier and 3-Tier modules?

2-Tier and 3-Tier modules are mainly used for cooling in order to recover a larger overall delta T that wouldn't otherwise be possible if only a single module was used.

7) What industry has the most potential for thermoelectrics?

There is large potential in cooling applications (refrigeration industry). There is also potential in the automotive industry with such applications in recovering energy from exhaust heat and heat generated from braking. Lastly, there could be some potential in industry applications in recovering heat generated from some manufacturing processes.

8) What is the most successful means of assembling a module to a device?

The most durable means of assembling will most likely be direct assembly through mechanical clamping. Direct solder bonding may be the next in durability followed by epoxy bonding. There may be some added thermal resistance in such assembly using epoxy bonding or direct solder bonding.

9) What are viable options for thermoelectrics in the automotive industry?

It is possible to apply a thermoelectric heat exchanger to recover energy from exhaust heat. This energy can then be used to create electricity that can be used to run an electric alternator opposed to a mechanical one that currently is powered by the engine.

Other possibilities include recovering energy from braking or using the change in temperature of the engine and surrounding air to produce electricity.

Customer Needs

Relative Importance of the Customer Needs

Needs Summary
Need The Product Needs to Importance
1.1 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Compensate for length of heat exchanger 9
1.2 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Compensate for width of heat exchanger 9
2.1 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Re-circulate waste heat 3
2.2 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Re-circulate cooling stream 3
3.1 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Measure inlet and outlet pressure of heating air 7
3.2 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Measure inlet and outlet pressure of cooling stream 1
4.1 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Measure temperature of inlet and outlet of cooling/heating streams 9
4.2 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Meausure T_Hot and T_Cold of heat exchanger 9
5.1 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Measure inlet/outlet flow rate of heating/cooling streams 9
6.1 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Record output current of heat exchanger 9
6.2 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Record energy input into the system 9
7.1 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Safe to users at high temperatures 9
8.1 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Strong and reliable to last many years 9
9.1 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Temperature/flow rate of auto exhaust 9
9.2 Heat Exchanger Test Bed Controllable temperature and flow rates 9

Engineering Specifications

List of Metrics

The table below presents the metrics that will be used by the team to design against.

List of Metrics
Metric No. Need Nos. Metric Importance Units
1 1.1, 1.2 Compensate for size of heat exchanger in.
2 2.1 Re-circulate waste heat g/min., deg. F
3 2.2 Re-circulate cooling stream g/min., deg. F
4 3.1, 3.2 Pressure at inlet and outlet psi
5 4.1, 9.1 Inlet and outlet temperature of heating and cooling supply deg. F
6 4.2 T_Hot and T_Cold temperature of exchanger deg. F
7 5.1, 9.1 Inlet cooling/heating flow rate g/min.
8 6.1, 6.2 Energy into system vs. energy out Volts, Amps
9 7.1 Safe for user deg. F
10 8.1 Durable/long lasting Years

The engineering specifications that you created in the preceding list should be directly related to the customer needs as outlined in the previous homework.

Needs - Metrics Matrix
Needs and Metrics Metric 1 Metric 2 Metric 3 Metric 4 Metric 5 Metric 6 Metric 7 Metric 8 Metric 9 Metric 10
Need 1.1 x
Need 1.2 x
Need 2.1 x
Need 2.2 x
Need 3.1 x
Need 3.2 x
Need 4.1 x
Need 4.2 x
Need 5.1 x
Need 6.1 x
Need 6.2 x
Need 7.1 x
Need 8.1 x
Need 9.1 x x

Competitive Benchmarking Information

Refer below to some ideas and concepts regarding thermoelectric waste heat recovery systems for power generation.

Benchmark 1
Development of thermoelectric power generation devices are being applied to the automobile industry. Thermoelectric heat exchangers target a vehicle's exhaust system as this is where most of an engine's energy loss occurs.
Click Figure to Enlarge
Benchmark 2
Example of a possible location for a thermoelectric power generation heat exchanger within a vehicle's exhaust pipes.
Click Figure to Enlarge
Benchmark 3
Overall Thermoelectric Demo Device, Test Bed Concept
Click Figure to Enlarge

Use this table below to compare how pre-existing solutions should compare against the design team's efforts. See the example Table 5-6 on Page 80 of the text by Ulrich and Eppinger.

Competitive Benchmarking Matrix
Metric No. Need Nos. Metric Importance Units Benchmark 1 Value Benchmark 2 Value Benchmark 3 Value
1 Need 1.1,1.2 Compensate for various size heat exchangers in.
2 Need 2.1 Re-circulate waste heat g/min., deg. F
3 Need 2.2 Re-circulate cooling stream g/min., deg. F
4 Need 3.1,3.2 Pressure at inlet and outlet psi
5 Need 4.1 Inlet and outlet temperature (heating/cooling supplies) deg. F Inlet = 1100-1400 deg F. (600-800 deg. C)
6 Need 4.2 Temperature differential of heat exchanger (T_Hot, T_Cold) deg. F
7 Need 5.1 Flow rate of inlet and outlet (heating and cooling supplies) g/min.
8 Need 6.1,6.2 Energy into system vs. energy out Volts, Amps
9 Need 7.1 Safe for user deg. F
10 Need 8.1 Durable/Long-lasting Years

Ideal and Marginally Acceptable Target Values

Given the customer needs, awareness of the marketplace, and resource limitations of the current project, assign preliminary engineering specifications on each of the metrics. In addition to setting the nominal or target value or each specification, provide guidance to the team on the ideal value or direction that the team should strive for, once the nominal target values have been realized.

List of Metrics
Metric No. Need Nos. Metric Importance Units Marginal value Ideal Value
1 Need 1,2
2 Need 2,4
3 Need 5
4 Need 6
5 Need 5,1
6 Need 6,2

Background Information Provided by the Customer

Useful Web Resources

It may be helpful to review these web resources to gain information on the fundamentals of thermoelectrics and commercially available modules.

For Background Information on Thermo-Electrics Visit:



http://www.osti.gov/fcvt/HETE2004/Fairbanks.pdf A presentation quickly covering potential applications and recent application type research

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/deer_2004/session4/2004_deer_majumdar.pdf Presentation on the material issues for the next generation of TE

http://www.osti.gov/fcvt/HETE2004/heteworkshop04.html Recent DOE workshop on thermoelectrics with a lot of presentation on the state of art TE materials and applications



For Commercially Available Modules Visit:









Project Deliverables

Various Thermo-Electric modules will be bought for distribution to SD1 students the first week of class. This will provide a better understanding for what a module looks like, size, etc.

SD1 will involve the design of the overall test bed including mechanical drawings and initial Bill of Materials, list of vendors, hardware purchased, preliminary thermal analysis calculations.

SD2 will involve the fabrication and evaluation of the test bed with the final mechanical drawings, Bill of Materials, and user instructions, thermal analysis of the system, working prototype, prototype of simple heat exchanger for testing purposes, fully integrated data acquisition system.

Preliminary Work Breakdown

Person Week 0->1 Tasks

(8 Dec 06)

Week 1->2 Tasks

(15 Dec 06)

Week 2->3 Tasks

(22 Dec 06)

ME Student 1 Familiarize with commercial modules bought, background research of available sites, review P07442 Project Readiness Package Research exhaust characteristics (flow rates, temp.) and prepare a list of possible solutions to simulate exhaust (vendors, etc.). Prepare a list of options as to how to maintain a temperature and flow rate for the cooling and heating supply lines. Contact vendors and develop a pricing list for the heating and cooling options decided.
ME Student 2 Familiarize with commercial modules bought, background research of available sites, review P07442 Project Readiness Package Research and prepare a list of options on a closed loop design. How will the heating and cooling supply be re-circulated? Work with EE Student 1 to help charactize the power of the modules based on a thermal standpoint. (Current vs. Voltage?, power vs. temperature/flow rate? -What conditions will drive the module to operate at peak power?) What will drive the DAQ system? Develop a list of hardware needed to maintain the closed loop along with price options and contact vendors if needed.
ME Student 3 Familiarize with commercial modules bought, background research of available sites, review P07442 Project Readiness Package Research possible heat exchanger designs and develop ideas on how to accomodate various size heat exchangers. What are options for our simple heat exchanger. What type of materials will be needed? Begin possible designs for attachments to the heat exchangers that will allow testing of various sizes. Designs must accomodate several length and width heat exchangers, and input/output diameter accomodations.
EE Student 1 Familiarize with commercial modules bought, background research of available sites, review P07442 Project Readiness Package Determine all possible data acquisition connections viable for the system. What connections and hardware will be needed for implementing Labview for data acquisition? Work with ME Student 2 to help charactize the power of the modules based on a thermal standpoint. (Current vs. Voltage?, power vs. temperature/flow rate? -What conditions will drive the module to operate at peak power?) What will drive the DAQ system? Look into vendors that can meet our needs for Labview. Begin to determine data acquisition solutions using Labview.
EE Student 2 Familiarize with commercial modules bought, background research of available sites, review P07442 Project Readiness Package Speak with P07301 project manager to determine feasibility of implementing the open architecture DAQ system to our test bed system. What parameters can their DAQ system measure? How will it be implemented into our test bed? How will we charactize the electrical performance of a module? or How can we regulate it to run at the optimal voltage/currents? Acquire any additional hardware/software needed for the open architecture DAQ system and review the connections that the test bed must have in order to work with P07301 DAQ system.

Grading and Assessment Scheme

Grading of students in this project will be fully consistent with grading policies established for the SD1 and SD2 courses. The following level describes an absolute level of expectation for the design itself, and for the hardware. However, the student team must also meet all requirements related to analysis, documentation, presentations, web sites, and posters, etc. that are implicit to all projects.

Level D:
Might be to build an operating testbed that mimic exhaust gases in terms of temperatures and flow rates and temperatures are measured
Level C:
The team will develop the testbed so a wide range of exhaust systems can be simulated with manual control of exhaust operating conditions, automatic electronic control and full data automatic data acquisition system (flow, temperature, pressures, currents, voltages, etc.)
Level B:
the team fully characterizes at least one thermoelectric power model. The team will fully quantify the uncertaintities and potential errors of the experimental setup. A testing procedure will be developed to fully characterize a power module over a range of temperature, flow rate, and power conditions.
Level A:
There will be full control of both temperatures and flow rates for both the heat source and sink side of testbed as well as full control of electrical inputs (voltage or current). It would be nice to have a testing procedure developed that is fully automated by the control/data acquisition system.

Required Resources

Item Source Description Available
Dr. Stevens ME Faculty Guide/Coordinator Yes
Dr. Hensel ME Mentor Yes
Prof. Wellin ME Lab Assistant Yes
Item Source Description Available
Measurements, Instrumentation, Controls Lab ME 09-2280 Work Space/Storage
ME Shop ME 09-2360 Parts Fabrication
Item Source Description Available
Desktop PC Throughout Building Controls, Data Acquisition
Power-supply EE Department Used for Testing Unknown