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The U.S. military uses large amounts of fuel during deployments and battlefield operations. Consequently, the U.S. military has a strong need to develop technologies that increase fuel efficiency and minimize fuel requirements all along the logistics trail and in all battlefield operations. There are additional requirements to reduce and minimize the environmental footprint of various military equipment and operations and reduce the need for batteries (non-rechargeable) in battlefield operations. The tri-agency SERDP (Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program) office is sponsoring a challenging, high-payoff project to develop a lightweight, small form-factor, soldier-portable advanced thermoelectric generator (TEG) system prototype to recover and convert waste heat from a variety of deployed equipment with the ultimate purpose of obtaining additional power for soldier battery charging, advanced capacitor charging, and other battlefield power applications. The project seeks to achieve power conversion efficiencies of 10% (double current commercial TE conversion efficiencies) in a system with ˜1.6-kW power output for a spectrum of battlefield power applications. In order to meet this objective, the project is taking on the multi-faceted challenges of tailoring LAST/LASTT-based thermoelectric (TE) materials for the proper temperature ranges (300 K – 700 K), fabricating these materials with cost-effective hot-pressed and sintered processes while maintaining their TE properties, measuring and characterizing their thermal fatigue and structural properties, developing the proper manufacturing processes for the TE materials and modules, designing and fabricating the necessary microtechnology heat exchangers, and fabricating and testing the final TEG system. The ultimate goal is to provide an opportunity to deploy these TEG systems in a wide variety of current military equipment. This would help the Army in achieving one of the Office of Secretary of Defense’s major strategic objectives to maintain and enhance operational effectiveness while reducing total force energy demands. The presentation will review the progress made on 1) the performance of LAST / LASTT TE materials and tailoring their temperature dependency; 2) evaluating the structural (Elastic modulus, Poisson’s ratio and mechanical strength) properties of these materials, 3) development of the necessary LAST/LASTT-based TE modules, 4) development of the required hot- and cold-side microtechnology heat exchangers, and 5) the overall system designs for 30 kW and 60 kW TQG applications and potential performance pathways/differences for these two TQG cases. This work leverages critical fundamental research performed by the Office of Naval Research in developing LAST/LASTT materials.
Advanced, direct thermal energy conversion technologies are receiving increased research attention in order to recover waste thermal energy in advanced vehicles and industrial processes. Advanced thermoelectric (TE) systems necessarily require integrated system-level analyses to establish accurate optimum system designs. Past system-level design and analysis has relied on well-defined deterministic input parameters even though many critically important environmental and system design parameters in the above mentioned applications are often randomly variable, sometimes according to complex relationships, rather than discrete, well-known deterministic variables. This work describes new research and development creating techniques and capabilities for probabilistic design and analysis of advanced TE power generation systems to quantify the effects of randomly uncertain design inputs in determining more robust optimum TE system designs and expected outputs. Selected case studies involving stochastic TE .material properties demonstrate key stochastic material impacts on power, optimum TE area, specific power, and power flux in the TE design optimization process. Magnitudes and directions of these design modifications are quantified for selected TE system design analysis cases.
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