Fabrication and Testing of a Heat Exchanger Module for Thermoelectric Power Generation in an Automobile Exhaust System

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Virginia Tech

Thermoelectric generators (TEGs) are currently a topic of interest in the field of energy harvesting for automobiles. In applying TEGs to the outside of the exhaust tailpipe of a vehicle, the difference in temperature between the hot exhaust gases and the automobile coolant can be used to generate a small amount of electrical power to be used in the vehicle. The amount of power is anticipated to be a few hundred watts based on the temperatures expected and the properties of the materials for the TEG.

This study focuses on developing efficient heat exchanger modules for the cold side of the TEG through the analysis of experimental data. The experimental set up mimics conditions that were previously used in a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model. This model tested several different geometries of cold side sections for the heat exchanger at standard coolant and exhaust temperatures for a typical car. The test section uses the same temperatures as the CFD model, but the geometry is a 1/5th scaled down model compared to an full-size engine and was fabricated using a metal-based rapid prototyping process. The temperatures from the CFD model are validated through thermocouple measurements, which provide the distribution of the temperatures across the TEG. All of these measurements are compared to the CFD model for trends and temperatures to ensure that the model is accurate. Two cold side geometries, a baseline geometry and an impingement geometry, are compared to determine which will produce the greater temperature gradient across the TEG.

Thermoelectric Generation, Thermoelectrics, Automobile, Test Stand, Heat--Transmission, TEG, Temperature Gradient