Available Technology

Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester

A novel thermoelectric generator (TEG) design by PNNL allows the conversion of ambient thermal energy into electric power for a variety of low-power uses. These miniature TEGs are able to power wireless sensors and their associated radio frequency transmitters used in a wide range of remote monitoring applications including building energy management, automotive component controls, agricultural monitoring, security surveillance, and wildlife management.
Patent Abstract: 
The Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester uses an assembly of ultra-thin thermocouples in a unique configuration that can exploit small (>2°C) temperature differences occurring naturally in the environment of the application (i.e. ground to air, water to air, or skin to air interfaces). The TEG is constructed from reliable and stable components that offer maintenance-free, continuous power for the lifetime of the application. The individual thermocouples, which are typically no more than 1 cm high by 1.5 cm wide and only a few micrometers thick, are deposited in a linked “chain” onto a thin, flexible plastic substrate (similar to camera film), using sputtered thin-film deposition techniques developed by PNNL. This plastic substrate is coiled around a spool enabling up to several thousand thermocouples to be assembled into a cylindrical TEG 1 to 2 cm in diameter. Depending on the magnitude of the temperature range they experience, their electrical output can be designed over a range from a few microwatts to 100’s of milliwatts and more.
Benefits 
Utilizes temperature differences that exist naturally between adjacent environments, producing electric energy for sensor, monitors and other low-power end uses -Capable of supplying average electric power of up to hundreds of milliwatts without an external fuel supply or human attention -Could supply a varying power demand profile that includes brief outputs of tens to hundreds of watts for communications and other high power requirements, when combined with energy storage media such as supercapacitors and rechargeable batteries -Application tailoring achieved simply by varying number of thermocouples, deposition parameters, and substrate dimensions -Projected life longer than equivalent batteries -Provides power for the lifetime of the application -Adaptable to wide range of ambient conditions -Fabrication amenable to standardization and automation
applications 
Internal Laboratory Ref #: 
12398-E, 13664-B
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