Energy harvesting: Printed thermoelectric generators for power generation

February 05, 2021

Thermoelectric generators, TEGs for short, convert ambient heat into electrical power. They enable maintenance-free, environmentally friendly, and autonomous power supply of the continuously growing number of sensors and devices for the Internet of Things (IoT) and recovery of waste heat. Scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have now developed three-dimensional component architectures based on novel, printable thermoelectric materials. This might be a milestone on the way towards use of inexpensive TEGs. The results are reported in npj Flexible Electronics (DOI: 10.1038/s41528-020-00098-1) and ACS Energy Letters (DOI: 10.1021/acsenergylett.0c02159).

"Thermoelectric generators directly convert thermal into electrical energy. This technology enables operation of autonomous sensors for the Internet of Things or in wearables, such as smart watches, fitness trackers, or digital glasses without batteries," says Professor Uli Lemmer, Head of the Light Technology Institute (LTI) of KIT. In addition, they might be used for the recovery of waste heat in industry and heating systems or in the geothermal energy sector.

New Printing Processes Thanks to Customized Inks

"Conventional TEGs have to be assembled from individual components using relatively complex manufacturing methods," Lemmer says. "To avoid this, we studied novel printable materials and developed two innovative processes and inks based on organic as well as on inorganic nanoparticles." These processes and inks can be used to produce inexpensive, three-dimensional printed TEGs.

The first process uses screen printing to apply a 2D pattern onto an ultrathin flexible substrate foil using thermoelectric printing inks. Then, a generator having about the size of a sugar cube is folded by means of an origami technique. This method has been developed jointly by KIT researchers, the Heidelberg Innovation Lab, and a spinoff of KIT. The second process consists in printing a 3D scaffold, to the surfaces of which the thermoelectric ink is applied.

Cost Reduction by Printing Technologies

Lemmer is convinced that scalable production processes, such as roll-to-roll screen printing or modern additive manufacturing (3D printing) are key technologies. "The new production processes not only enable inexpensive scalable production of these TEGs. Printing technologies also allow the component to be adapted to the applications. We are now working on commercializing the printed thermoelectrical system.
-end-
Research was carried out within the 3DMM2O cluster of excellence and was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the MERAGEM Graduate School, and the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU).

Original Publications:

Andres Georg Rösch, André Gall, Silas Aslan, Matthias Hecht, Leonard Franke, Md. Mofasser Mallick, Lara Penth, Daniel Bahro, Daniel Friderich, and Ulrich Lemmer: Fully printed origami thermoelectric generators for energy-harvesting. npj Flex Electron 5, 1 (2021).
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41528-020-00098-1

Md Mofasser Mallick, Leonard Franke, Andres Georg Rösch, and Uli Lemmer: Shape-Versatile 3D Thermoelectric Generators by Additive Manufacturing. ACS Energy Lett. 6, 85 (2021).
https://doi.org/10.1021/acsenergylett.0c02159

Press Contact:

Sandra Wiebe,
Press Officer,
Phone: +49 721 608-41172,
sandra.wiebe@kit.edu

Being "The Research University in the Helmholtz Association", KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,300 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 24,400 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

Related Technology Articles from Brightsurf:

December issue SLAS Technology features 'advances in technology to address COVID-19'
The December issue of SLAS Technology is a special collection featuring the cover article, ''Advances in Technology to Address COVID-19'' by editors Edward Kai-Hua Chow, Ph.D., (National University of Singapore), Pak Kin Wong, Ph.D., (The Pennsylvania State University, PA, USA) and Xianting Ding, Ph.D., (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China).

October issue SLAS Technology now available
The October issue of SLAS Technology features the cover article, 'Role of Digital Microfl-uidics in Enabling Access to Laboratory Automation and Making Biology Programmable' by Varun B.

Robot technology for everyone or only for the average person?
Robot technology is being used more and more in health rehabilitation and in working life.

Novel biomarker technology for cancer diagnostics
A new way of identifying cancer biomarkers has been developed by researchers at Lund University in Sweden.

Technology innovation for neurology
TU Graz researcher Francesco Greco has developed ultra-light tattoo electrodes that are hardly noticeable on the skin and make long-term measurements of brain activity cheaper and easier.

April's SLAS Technology is now available
April's Edition of SLAS Technology Features Cover Article, 'CURATE.AI: Optimizing Personalized Medicine with Artificial Intelligence'.

Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.

Post-lithium technology
Next-generation batteries will probably see the replacement of lithium ions by more abundant and environmentally benign alkali metal or multivalent ions.

Rethinking the role of technology in the classroom
Introducing tablets and laptops to the classroom has certain educational virtues, according to Annahita Ball, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, but her research suggests that tech has its limitations as well.

The science and technology of FAST
The Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), located in a radio quiet zone, with the targets (e.g., radio pulsars and neutron stars, galactic and extragalactic 21-cm HI emission).

Read More: Technology News and Technology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.