Thermoelectronics for cars, trucks, submarines, refridgerators and more

Michigan State University researchers believe, using thermoelectric generation technology, a 5% improvement in bsfc for and on highway truck is a reasonable 5 year goal 10% improvement possible with new Thermoelectric materials. They currently have a 40 watt thermoelectric generator for gathering waste heat from a truck exhaust. They can get an engine about 1-3.5% more efficient. By the end of 2007 they are targeting a 100 watt thermoelectric generator.

digg_url= ‘’; digg_skin =’compact’;

The total available energy in waste heat in transportation and industry is shown above.

Caterpillar is using a systems approach to capturing the 10% improvement and is already able to capture 5% improvement in the lab. They will be installing the system into engines and vehicles in the next phase of their project.

BMW has a system for 2010 that would be 2-3% more efficient (possible commercial release)

The DOE presentation on thermoelectronic improvement of vehicles.

The DOE Timeline is to introduce in production personal vehicles in the 2011 to 2014.

From a General Motors presentation on thermoelectronics

10% fuel economy improvement for a full size truck
– 1.65 kW – city
– 2.5 kW – Highway

350 W is the minimum requirement (remember University of Michigan expects to have 100W systems at the end of the year)
– equal to the base electrical load of today’s generator on FTP, and would improve its composite Urban/Highway fuel economy by ~ 3%

Exhaust recovery can meet the 350 W requirement with existing materials with high starting purities but at high cost.

GM feels radiator recovery alone will not meet the 350 W requirement and is cost prohibitive.

Thermoelectronics need to be efficient and affordable. If you save $2000 in fuel costs per year with 10% more efficiency then the $/W needs to be reasonable.

Quantum well base thermoelectronic presentation
Projected quantum well modules at less then 30 cents per Watt.

Other applications

Current prototype: USS DOLPHIN AGSS 555 Thermoelectric Air Conditioning Test for Silent Running submarine.

R134-a refrigerant gas was universally adopted as the replacement for Freon.
However R134-a has 1,300 times* the global warming potential of CO2
Thermoelectronics can replace R134-a for air conditioners

Four Dispersed Solid StateThermoelectric Coolers/Heaters could comfortably cool or heat 5 occupants with 400 to 900 Watts of cooled or heated air.

Target is by 2020 to have 90% of US Personal Vehicle Fleet with a Thermoelectic Generator Powering a thermoelectric Cooler/Heater to replace R-134-a Refrigerant Gas Air Conditioners. Save 1.02 M bbls/day or 5% of US gasoline usage. Reduce the equivalent of 156 Million Metric Tons of CO2e Annually.

Existing Thermoelectric drink coolers could be improved for better full sized refidgerators

Thermoelectronics could reduce the weight of cooling and batteries for soldiers by 30%.

Current Vehicular Applications of Thermoelectrics
-Climate Control Seats
-Drink Cooler/Warmer
-Thermal Control of Electronics

Near Term Applications (2011 – 2015)
-Thermoelectric Generators Harvesting Engine Waste Heat
-Thermoelectric Coolers/Heaters replacing Air Conditioners
-Integrated Thermoelectric Generators & Coolers/Heaters Heavy Duty Truck Auxiliary Power Unit (APU)

Long Term (2020 +)
-Thermoelectric Generator Replacing Propulsion Engine
-Plug-in Solid State Hybrid with Multi Fuel Capability


A lot of the thermoelectric methods are nanoscale, using quantum dots, quantum wells and nanomaterials

More on the nanotechnology basis of many of the new superior thermoelectronic methods