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Design and optimization of automotive thermoelectric generators for maximum fuel efficiency improvement

Kempf, Nicholas, Zhang, Yanliang
Energy conversion and management 2016 v.121 pp. 224-231
electricity, fuels, gas engines, heat, heat exchangers, power generation, silicon carbide, stainless steel, thermal conductivity, thermoelectric generators, wastes
Automotive fuel efficiency can be increased by thermoelectric power generation using exhaust waste heat. A high-temperature thermoelectric generator (TEG) that converts engine exhaust waste heat into electricity is simulated based on a light-duty passenger vehicle with a 4-cylinder gasoline engine. Strategies to optimize TEG configuration and heat exchanger design for maximum fuel efficiency improvement are provided. Through comparison of stainless steel and silicon carbide heat exchangers, it is found that both the optimal TEG design and the maximum fuel efficiency increase are highly dependent on the thermal conductivity of the heat exchanger material. Significantly higher fuel efficiency increase can be obtained using silicon carbide heat exchangers at taller fins and a longer TEG along the exhaust flow direction when compared to stainless steel heat exchangers. Accounting for major parasitic losses, a maximum fuel efficiency increase of 2.5% is achievable using newly developed nanostructured bulk half-Heusler thermoelectric modules.