Thermoelectric Power Harvesting Systems

EPA Grant Number: SU834328
Title: Thermoelectric Power Harvesting Systems
Investigators: Jones, Matthew , Chamberlin, Skyler , Edwards, David
Current Investigators: Jones, Matthew , Allred, Jacob , Chamberlin, Skyler , Christiansen, John , Edwards, David , Lefevre, Jeremy , Naegle, Stephen
Institution: Brigham Young University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2010
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Energy production based on fossil fuels negatively impacts the environment and is not sustainable. Recent advances in the area of nanotechnology have lead to improved performance of direct energy conversion devices such as thermoelectric generators. However, these efforts have focused on improving the performance of the device. The next step is to optimize on a system level by considering both the device and its connection to available sources and sinks. Development of robust, economically viable thermoelectric power harvesting systems can significantly reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, and increase the overall efficiency of renewable power production systems such as solar thermal and geothermal power plants.


The objective of the proposed project is to demonstrate that the system level efficiency of a thermoelectric power harvesting system can be improved by careful design of the thermal pathways connecting the device to the source and the sink.


The student team will design and build a test rig in which thermoelectric generators are flexibly connected to their sources and sinks via a variety of thermal paths. Analysis of the test rig will reveal the optimal thermal connections. Measurements of the power generated under these optimal operating conditions will be compared to measurements obtain under conditions slightly departing from optimal.

Expected Results:

Comparison of the power measurements obtained under optimal conditions with those obtained under conditions departing from optimal will show the importance of the proposed system level optimization. Students participating in the design competition will develop a thorough understanding of the potential of thermoelectric power harvesting systems contribute to a sustainable, environmentally benign power production portfolio.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Clean Energy, Conservation, Pollution Prevention, Greenhouse Gas Reduction, Emission Control, Thermoelectric generators, Nanotechnology, Waste Heat Recovery, Energy Harvesting,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report