Netxtreme, a company providing thermal solutions, has come up with a thermoelectric evaluation kit, called eTEG UPF40 (embedded ThermoElectric Generator). It’s an interesting concept, because of its efficiency (greater than that of standard thermoelectric materials) at converting heat into electricity.
It’s easy at first glance: the eTEG uses the Seebeck effect, consisting of the conversion of temperature differences directly into electricity in two metals or semiconductors, in which a thermal difference produces a voltage across the two. Their kit is not cheap ($295), but with time its price may decrease.
“The ability of Nextreme’s thin-film thermoelectric materials to convert waste heat into electrical energy using a thin, nanoscale form factor positions it uniquely to address market opportunities that standard bulk thermoelectric devices and other energy scavenging or energy reclamation systems cannot address.”
Practically, you only need a power supply for a heater, and a voltmeter to measure eTEG’s output across a load. Of course, the fan installed atop of it can be powered from the eTEG itself (remember the MSI motherboard using a stirling engine system for self-cooling?)
The wonderful fact is that the eTEG can generate up to 5W/cm² at 120°C. That’s fantastic, it could dramatically reduce the power consumption of laptop and desktop computers. The testing prototype measures only 1.6×3.2mm.