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Recovering waste heat from industrial processes or vehicle exhaust is not a new idea. However, it is still difficult to actually implement due to the fact that the necessary technologies have not yet been scaled up. The EU INTEGRAL* project, which Liten coordinated, was set up to scale up and manufacture test runs of second-generation thermoelectric materials that are cheaper, less toxic, and more environmentally friendly than their predecessors.
These materials, when used the right way, can convert the difference in temperature between a heat source and cold source into electricity. The project consortium began by developing and making improvements to different kinds of thermoelectric materials, including silicides, which Liten researches. At the same time, the researchers developed methods for characterizing these materials in real-time during production so that faulty interconnects could be identified in advance, for example.
Test runs of the materials were then produced on pilot lines and integrated into functional thermoelectric generator demonstrators. The demonstrators were validation-tested in real-world conditions on site or on test benches. The results confirmed the possible uses for these thermoelectric materials on volume markets from automotive and long-distance vehicles to self-powering sensors and energy harvesting systems for industrial applications.
*The INTEGRAL project was financed by the European Commission's H2020 instrument (contract no. 720878).
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.