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Japanese Thermoelectric Modules Aim Reaching Record of 11% Efficiency


Japan-based Showa Denko K.K. just released an announcement about their latest thermoelectric module, which, they say, aims to reach the efficiency threshold of 11%. The module has been made in collaboration with Plantec Inc, whose main business are incineration plants, and has been tested for the first time on Aug. 31, 2009.

A new test will be performed by Showa Denko on Feb. 15, 2010. The thermoelectric device is designed to be attached to the exhaust pipe of a car and supply electricity to the car’s air conditioner, thus improving the fuel mileage.

Showa Denko’s thermoelectric module is equipped with rare earth-based thermoelectric converter elements, using La-Fe-Sb for the positive semiconductor and Ce-Co-Sb for the negative one, just because this combination is perfectly suited to the temperatures that the elements will operate at – 300 to 600 degrees Celsius.

For the moment, though, the only level of efficiency that these thermoelectric modules have reached is 6.2% and 2.4W/cm², in the temperature range of 50 to 600 degrees Celsius. The module they tested measured 30x30x4 m, and the maximum output had been 21.6W.

Despite the initial results being so far from their theoretical wishes, the engineers from Showa Denko have plans of building an 11% efficient thermoelectric module by including the heat collecting and heat radiating mechanisms.

Some automakers are already interested in efficient thermoelectric modules, though none have been spoken of by the company. One may assume Volkswagen is already involved in this, since they intend to market cars equipped with thermoelectric devices in the near future.

[via Tech-On!]

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  1. This appears to be very clever and an added useful piece of equipment for our vehicles to run more efficiently and eco-friendly. I like the suggestion from David Rushton. However for your information I read an interesting article this morning that described a car that is, on the road, and ran entirely from water. The fuel tank is replaced by a water tank and from all reports is a very smooth and efficient ride. I will add that the report had indicated that the inventor had been “blocked” from promoting his concept of an eco friendly vehicle.

  2. Why do engineers keep looking at the exhaust pipe for scavenging heat? I would have thought there would have been much more heat available in the cooling system. Could we design a radiator – that is a big heat sink made of thermoelectric material? Perhaps also wrap the engine block in a thermo electric heat sink.


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