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The project aims at extending and improving the use of thermoelectric materials in various applications.
The research group Energy & Automation (E&A) is active on the Technology Campus in Ghent and belongs to the Technology Cluster of the Department of Electrical engineering. The research group has research expertise and infrastructure in light electric mobility, energy management systems, stand-alone power systems and industrial datacommunication. In these domains there is an extensive network of companies as well as close connections to the international research community.
The project aims at extending and improving the use of thermoelectric materials in various applications. In the context of increasing the energy efficiency of industrial processes, thermoelectric generators based on (novel) TE-materials may offer a good alternative for heat recovery, since TEGs are static devices that in principle do not require maintenance and may work even in harsh environments, like eg. space, extreme cold, etc. These characteristics make them also suitable for self-powered sensors to monitor for example gas-pipes in high north or human parameters. Besides, TEGs can be used together with PV-systems in hybrid installations to harvest more energy from the solar radiation. Up to date, expensive (due to complex manufacturing and scarcity of used materials) and not so efficient (due to low figure of merit ZT<1 and inefficient MPPT techniques) TEGs have not been applied at large scale for low grade heat recovery in actual industrial processes and in solar energy harvesting. However, they’ve been used with good results in applications with high grade waste heat recovery, like space, nuclear energy. In this project we investigate how to improve the efficiency of the low grade heat recovery systems by better and affordable combinations of (novel) TE-modules into TEGs arrays together with appropriate MPPT techniques to allow improved dynamic performance. The theroretical, modelling part of the research will be accompanied by design and realization of practical tests for evaluation of waste heat recovery with TEGs in acutal industrial context.
The literature data related to efficiencies of the practical TEG systems is rather scarce and contradictory. We hope to improve the efficiencies with at least 20% above the actual, real-efficiency values of the commercially used TEGs.
A short-list of the most important project's goals is provided below:
KU Leuven is among the top European universities and the applied research done within the Energy and Automation group in cooperation with relevant industrial partners is long-standing.