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Thermoelectric generators incorporating phase-change materials for waste heat recovery from engine exhaust

United States Patent

February 11, 2014
View the Complete Patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office
Oak Ridge National Laboratory - Visit the Partnerships Directorate Website
Thermoelectric devices, intended for placement in the exhaust of a hydrocarbon fuelled combustion device and particularly suited for use in the exhaust gas stream of an internal combustion engine propelling a vehicle, are described. Exhaust gas passing through the device is in thermal communication with one side of a thermoelectric module while the other side of the thermoelectric module is in thermal communication with a lower temperature environment. The heat extracted from the exhaust gasses is converted to electrical energy by the thermoelectric module. The performance of the generator is enhanced by thermally coupling the hot and cold junctions of the thermoelectric modules to phase-change materials which transform at a temperature compatible with the preferred operating temperatures of the thermoelectric modules. In a second embodiment, a plurality of thermoelectric modules, each with a preferred operating temperature and each with a uniquely-matched phase-change material may be used to compensate for the progressive lowering of the exhaust gas temperature as it traverses the length of the exhaust pipe.
Meisner; Gregory P. (Ann Arbor, MI), Yang; Jihui (Lakeshore, CA)
GM Global Technology Operations LLC (Detroit, MI)
12/ 892,983
September 29, 2010
This invention was made with U.S. Government support under Agreement No. DEAC050000R22725 awarded by the Department of Energy. The U.S. Government may have certain rights in this invention.