Applications

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on energy each year on a global basis. It is estimated that 60 percent of that energy is wasted as heat, creating enormous market opportunities for GMZ Energy.

Thermoelectric generators can be applied in a great variety of applications in transportation, power generation, industrial processes, military, consumer products and many other industries.

Autos and Light Vehicles

Cars and other light vehicles produce a great deal of waste heat in the engine’s exhaust and coolant. Harvesting that waste heat energy with a thermoelectric generator decreases the electric generator load on the engine – which in turn can increase the fuel efficiency while lowering its emissions. A typical automotive TEG has four main elements: a hot-side heat exchanger, a cold-side heat exchanger, thermoelectric materials, and a power conversion system.

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Automotive engineers face significant challenges in the application of TEG to cars. TE materials must provide high thermoelectric power conversion and be mechanically and thermally stable to insure the TEG will last for the life of the car with little or no maintenance impact. In addition, the TEG must have excellent power density because the space in which the TEG system must be added is limited. GMZ’s high-temperature nanostructured half-Heusler materials provide the needed characteristics.

Better fuel efficiency and emissions reduction are being mandated by regulatory authorities and are powerful market drivers for TEG in this market segment. Integrating TEG into cars improves gas mileage and reduces carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, nearly all automobile manufacturers are working to add TEG into their cars within the next few years.

In 2012 about 60 million passenger cars were built and sold worldwide, excluding light commercial vehicles and heavy trucks, buses, coaches and minibuses. Powerful regulatory drivers and the enormous size of this market make it an excellent opportunity for GMZ’s TEG Technology Platform.

Read about GMZ’s $9 million DOE-funded research project: “Nanostructured High-Temperature Bulk Thermoelectric Energy Conversion for Efficient Automotive Waste Heat Recovery.” 

Heavy Equipment

Heavy equipment powered by diesel engines (such as tractors, earth movers, trucks) has medium exhaust temperatures. That makes waste heat recovery via thermoelectric generation more efficient. Another positive aspect of this market segment is its run-time or “capacity factor.” Because heavy equipment is expensive, it is used as many hours per year as possible. High capacity factor improves ROI even more.

Sales of heavy equipment in 2012 exceeded $220 billion, making heavy equipment an attractive market segment for the economic application of GMZ’s TEG Technology Platform.

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Consumer Products

TEG will revolutionize many existing products by adding functionality that radically improves the value of the product. As an example, consider the application of TEG in home boilers used for space heating. When an ordinary gas-fired boiler begins a heating cycle, an electrical starter switch allows the natural gas to begin to flow and ignites the gas. But electricity from an outside source is needed for the switch to operate. In the event of a power failure the boiler simply will not work. In colder climates where the loss of space heat poses serious consequences to life and property, this is a severe design limitation.

Using TEG, the heating system can be made immune from power failures of any length. Studies have shown that grid power failures are increasing in both frequency and duration. Events like Hurricane Sandy have heightened consumer awareness of weather-related risks and increased consumer demand for equipment and systems that provide better emergency preparedness.

In this case TEG opens up a completely new class of product. Initially it will be considered a premium product and command a premium price. As the cost of TEG continues to decline, such UPS functionality will likely become a standard feature on most natural gas-fired home heating systems.

The global market for gas-fired home heating boilers exceeds $11 billion a year. GMZ’s TEG Technology Platform is ideally suited for this application and for countless others that have yet to be imagined.

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Power Generation

Stationary power generation represents an enormous technical market for TEG. Nearly 30 percent of all the energy inputs that are used to generate electricity in the United States is lost as waste heat. Cost reductions in TEG will be required to penetrate this market segment on an economic basis. However, smaller power plants, particularly those fueled with expensive diesel fuel and located on islands or weak grids where the cost of electricity is high will be commercialized much sooner.

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Industrial Waste Heat

Roughly a third of the energy consumed by the U.S. manufacturing industry is discharged as waste heat to the atmosphere or to cooling systems. These discharges are the result of process inefficiencies and the inability of manufacturing plants to utilize the excess energy. Industrial waste heat energy is estimated to exceed 10 quads/yr (1 quad = 1015 Btu), an amount equivalent to more than 1.72 billion barrels of oil. While most of this lost energy is low temperature heat and not practical to recover, as much as 1.8 quads/yr, is considered to be an economic opportunity for TEG waste heat recovery.

Key to the commercial development of TE materials for use under industrial conditions is that they must be thermally, structurally, and chemically stable. They must accommodate vibration and thermal cycling conditions without significant degradation. GMZ’s TEG Technology Platform is especially well suited to meet these demanding design requirements for waste heat in the medium to high temperature range.

The enormous size of the industrial market combined with high waste heat temperature streams for a diversity of processes, e.g., aluminum, glass, metal castings and steel – make this market an important opportunity for the application of GMZ’s TEG Technology Platform.

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Military

Military markets are an important opportunity for the application of TEG. Saving fuel is extremely important to the Military. Here are some relevant statistics that help determine the economic value of TEG applications in the Military:

  •  The US Military uses 3 x 105 barrels per day
  •  JP-8 fuel: Base cost = $3/gallon
  • “Fully burdened cost” = $42/Gallon   (14X multiple over domestic cost)
  • Human cost = 1 US casualty per 24 trips  (No way to quantify this value!)

Source: Patrick J. Taylor, Army Research Laboratory

Applications for the use of TEG in the Military include everything from Bradley Fighting Vehicles to portable generators and waste heat recovered from food preparation. Any Military application that can save fuel or add major new functionality and/or versatility to an existing system is a candidate for TEG.

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