Comprehensive Modeling of Novel Thermal Systems: Investigation of Cascaded Thermoelectrics and Bio-Inspired Thermal Protection Systems Performance

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Virginia Tech


Thermal systems involve multiple components assembled to store or transfer heat for power, cooling, or insulation purpose, and this research focuses on modeling the performance of two novel thermal systems that are capable of functioning in environments subjected to high heat fluxes. The first investigated thermal system is a cascaded thermoelectric generator (TEG) that directly converts heat into electricity and offers a green option for renewable energy generation. The presented cascaded TEG allows harvesting energy in high temperatures ranging from 473K to 973K, and being a solid-state device with no moving parts constitutes an excellent feature for increase device life cycle and minimum maintenance in harsh, remote environments. Two cascaded TEG designs are analyzed in this research: the two-stage and three-stage cascaded TEGs, and based on the findings, the two-stage cascaded TEG produces a power output of 42 W with an efficiency of 8.3% while the three-cascaded TEG produces 51 W with an efficiency of 10.2%. The second investigated novel thermal system is a thermal protection system inspired by the porous internal skeleton of the cuttlefish also known as cuttlebone. The presented bio- inspired thermal protection has excellent features to serve as an integrated thermal protection system for spacecraft vehicles including being lightweight (93% porosity) and possessing high compressive strength. A large amount of heat flux is generated from friction between air and spacecraft vehicle exterior, especially during reentry into the atmosphere, and part of the herein presented research involves a thermomechanical modeling analysis of the cuttlebone bio-inspired integrated thermal protection system along with comparing its performance with three conventional structures such as the wavy, the pyramid, and cylindrical pin structures. The results suggest that the cuttlebone integrated thermal protection system excels the best at resisting deformation caused by thermal expansion when subjected to aerodynamic heat fluxes.



Heat--Transmission, Thermoelectrics, Thomson Effect, Bio-Inspired, Thermal Protection Systems