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Harvesting Energy from Abundant, Low Quality Sources of Heat

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing SummaryThe basic concept of energy harvesting is to collect energy from solar or other free sources of thermal energy that exist in the environment and convert them to electricity. In principle, this technique could provide power from low quality sources of energy such as waste heat at low temperatures. A collaboration between LLNL and UCLA has demonstrated that a bulk compound thermoelectric laminate can convert thermal energy to electricity. If produced as a thin-film material and operated at high thermal cycling frequency the inventors believe that the power/gram produced by compound thermo-electrics prepared as thin films can potentially exceed that of current solar cells or other energy harvesting techniques. DescriptionAn LLNL and UCLA team has recently demonstrated a new compound material that can directly convert thermal energy to electrical energy. Basic research is required before this newly invented material can be produced in the form of a thin film and tested at high frequency. The team is interested in partnering with a company from basic research and development through production of a manufacturing prototype. Benefits
  • Obtain electricity from sources of "waste energy" rather than generated energy
  • Sources of thermal energy are available even when the sun is not shining. These include sources such as car engines, laptop computers or hot asphalt.
  • Scaled for very small devices and therefore provide less expensive continuous power
  • Continual source of power provides an uninterrupted power supply with no need to change batteries
Applications and Industries
  • Provide power for small MEMS and NEMS devices.
  • Provide power for remote sensors, remote actuators, etc.
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 7,397,169
Energy harvesting using a thermoelectric material
A novel energy harvesting system and method utilizing a thermoelectric having a material exhibiting a large thermally induced strain (TIS) due to a phase transformation and a material exhibiting a stress induced electric field is introduced. A material that exhibits such a phase transformation exhibits a large increase in the coefficient of thermal expansion over an incremental temperature range (typically several degrees Kelvin). When such a material is arranged in a geometric configuration, such as, for a example, a laminate with a material that exhibits a stress induced electric field (e.g. a piezoelectric material) the thermally induced strain is converted to an electric field.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 07/08/2008
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
Internal ID: 12006DevelopmentAvailable01/24/201002/02/2010

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To: Annemarie Meike<>