Thermoelectric energy harvesters to make up a $750 million market in 2022, says IDTechEx
Figure 1. Representation of the Peltier (left) and the Seebeck (right) effect. Source: University of Suffolk
Markets For Thermoelectric Generators
Wireless sensors powered by thermoelectric generators in environments where temperature differentials exist would lead to avoiding issues with battery lifetime and reliability and lead to an increase in wireless sensor network implementations. It would also lead to the ability to move away from wired sensors, which are still the solution of choice when increased reliability of measurement over prolonged periods of time is necessary. Some applications have low enough power demands to operate with small temperature differentials, as small as a few degrees in some cases. Some other segments on the other hand are characterized by extreme temperature differentials but at the same time, have very stringent safety requirements which could lead to long development times -e.g. condition monitoring of turbine blades while in-service. These varying kinds of considerations pertaining to different segments demonstrate the versatility that needs to be demonstrated by the technology developers in order to capture available opportunities in different verticals.
Waste heat recovery systems in vehicles
A large number of car companies, including Volkswagen, VOLVO, FORD and BMW in collaboration with NASA have been developing thermoelectric waste heat recovery systems in-house, each achieving different types of performance but all of them expecting to lead to improvements of 3-5% in fuel economy while the power generated out of these devices could potentially reach up to 1200W. This type of application has great potential, even with the advent of vehicle electrification which would take several decades and would not entirely substitute internal combustion engine vehicles in the immediate future. At the same time, due to the high temperature tolerances necessary for waste heat recovery systems, a lot of work is going into the development of the correct type of material systems, interconnects, etc. Again, the critical safety characteristics that need to be fulfilled in order to see widespread adoption of such technology in vehicles along with demands for low cost solutions lead to longer adoption cycles by the automotive industry.
In consumer applications, the type of solution that thermoelectric generators provide varies: it could be related to saving energy when cooking by using thermo-powered cooking sensors, powering mobile phones, watches or other consumer electronics, even body sensing could become more widespread with sensory wristbands, clothing or athletic apparel that monitor vitals such as heart rate, body temperature, etc. Developments in material and device design have led to thermoelectric devices on flexible substrates that allow for innovation in form factor that could allow for seamless integration in different products.
In the meantime, military and aerospace applications have already become a market of several million dollars, having supported mature thermoelectric harvesting technologies for several decades now (e.g. radioisotope thermoelectric generators in space probes, satellites, etc.). These are purely performance driven applications in a segment where cost considerations are not as important as the ability to efficiently and reliably provide power when needed most, in hostile, remote environments and applications. Even some terrestrial applications have seen adoption of thermoelectric generator technologies, with one of the most interesting examples being the installations by Global Thermoelectric, a company that has fitted thermoelectric generators worldwide in remote locations such as oil or natural gas pipelines, wells, offshore platforms, etc.
Forecasts for thermoelectric generators
Figure 2 outlines the way the market for thermoelectric generators is expected to grow in the next few years, and shows how the interest in wireless sensor applications is going to spearhead the growth of a new niche market for these types of generators from 2015 onwards. Interest in consumer applications will also increase but the dominant market will remain that for bespoke military and aerospace applications.
Figure 2: Forecasts for growth in the thermoelectric generators market to 2014. Source: IDTechEx http://www.IDTechEx.com/thermo
The report continues to give an overview of devices, materials and manufacturing processes, with a specific focus on emerging technologies that allow for new functionality, form factor and application in various demanding environments with high specificity. Whether it is operation in high temperatures or corrosive environments, applications with increased safety demands or components that need to be thin, flexible, or even stretchable, research and development work worldwide on these topics is highlighted.
Visit IDTechEx at www.IDTechEx.com/thermo
- Temperature controller board targets embedded applications
- element14 launches the Energy Harvesting Road Test Design Challenge
- OPV solar modules project aims to optimize energy harvesting by autonomous sensors within buildings
- Energy harvesting wireless switch transmits on-off data over a 300m range at 868MHz
- Fully flexible design platform helps OEMs validate new energy harvesting cell concepts
- High-performance piezoelectric material optimizes voltage charge coefficients
- Energy harvesting wireless technology enables new single room control system
- Laird Technologies acquires Nextreme Thermal Solutions and its thin-film thermoelectric technologies
- IDTechEx forecasts a USD100 Million Graphene market in 2018
- EnOcean forges strategic partnership with ROHM to advance energy harvesting wireless technology
- Industry's first ultra-wideband Doherty amplifiers support broadband operation
- Bosch and ST battle for top spot in MEMS market
- MEMS wireless vibration sensing solution remotely monitors industrial machine health
- Miniature self-charging tracking device generates its own radio signal
- Zilog owner snaps up Samsung's 4 and 8bit microcontroller business
- Sensors development board provides designers with precision solutions
- Full passive UHF RFID sensor tag monitors pressure in sealed places
- Fairchild Semiconductor offers innovative BLDC motor control reference design
- 3D image sensor chip enables touchless gesture control
- Microsemi begins shipping production-qualified SmartFusion2 SoC FPGAs
- How to Select the Best Audio Amplifier for Your Design
- K-Type Thermocouple Measurement System with Integrated Cold Junction Compensation
- 16-Bit, 100 kSPS Low Power Successive Approximation ADC System
- Fast and simple measurement of position changes
- Interfacing Microcontrollers to the Industrial World
- Accurate Temperature Sensing with an External P-N Junction
- Complete Closed-Loop Precision Analog Microcontroller Thermocouple Measurement System with 4 mA to 20 mA Output
- How to use USB safely in harsh environments
- Optimizing the Performance of Very Wideband Direct Conversion Receivers
- How Extended Photocoupler Performance is Enabling Next-Generation Applications