Polymer Thermoelectric Devices: Cost Considerations and Technology Prospects
Recent control of the transport properties in polymers has encouraged the development of polymer thermoelectric (TE) devices. Polymer TEs are thought to be less expensive and more scalable than their inorganic counterparts and recent ZT improvements suggest that polymers may be a low cost alternative for low temperature thermoelectric power generation. The principle arguments is that a low cost, low efficiency TE generator may be preferred over a traditional, higher efficiency, high cost TE generator given the overabundance of low quality heat sources. The central challenge is then in designing a low cost solution that can be widely deployed to convert the low quality heat into electricity. To that end a detailed study of the material and manufacturing costs of existing TE options was conducted to evaluate the maturity of existing TE solutions. The design framework that allows for minimizing the $/W, suggests that polymers may be an ideal solution but require that the TE generator geometry be reinvented. The low thermal conductivity and low costs associated with polymers suggests that the cost optimized system will have a very different geometry than traditional TE devices. Logically following that suggestion to its conclusion, leads us to (i) custom, large area, screen printed, polymer thin film devices and to (ii) rapidly parallelizable, radially stacked, polymer thin film devices. This seminar will introduce thermoelectric power generation and walk through the cost considerations and design constraints of TE generator costing <$1/W. The cost-performance trade-offs will be discussed and it will be shown how polymers are uniquely situated for this application.
About Shannon Yee
Shannon Yee is an Assistant Professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering since the fall semester of 2013 and recently became a member of Georgia Tech – COPE.
Dr. Yee graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (2007) and then an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering (2008) from The Ohio State University. He was a Department of Energy Advanced Fuel Cell Cycle Initiative Fellow (2007) and was also awarded prestigious the Hertz Fellowship (2008) to support his research in energy. Dr. Yee graduated with a Ph.D. (2013) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California Berkley. During that time, he assisted in forming the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) as it’s first Fellow.