Bulk Thermoelectric Materials

Period of Performance: 01/01/2011 - 12/31/2011


Phase 2 STTR

Recipient Firm

Nanosonic, Inc.
158 Wheatland Drive Array
Pembroke, VA 24136
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Research Institution

University of Virginia
351 McCormick Rd ECE Dept., Thornton Hall
Charlottesville, VA 22904


This DOE SBIR/STTR program will result in the commercialization of a low-cost anostructured composite thermoelectric device. Such devices represent the next generation solution for an increasingly strained energy market by converting existing waste heat into electrical power. More waste heat is generated by the combination of industry and automobiles than the total contribution of all renewable energy resources including hydroelectric, biofuel, geothermal, wind, and solar PV combined. Merely capturing 20% of this waste heat will account for twice the wind energy generated in the U.S. from 2003 to 2006. Recent experimental results indicate that high-performance thermoelectric composite materials are dependent on both processing strategies and chemical modification of the base composition. It is the aim of this research program to understand the role that controlled particle size, particle size distribution, materials densification, and grain boundary properties play in enhancing thermoelectric ZT values and high-temperature operational stability versus current state of art materials while ensuring the resulting technology is realizable for commercial applications. mmercial Application and Other Benefits: Thermoelectric (TE) materials allow low-grade heat (waste heat) to be converted into useful electrical energy. This technology is applicable to many different areas, for example, these TE generators are already being installed on the exhausts of several automobiles including the BMW 5 Series. In place, they provide approximately 300 W to 600 W in passive energy conversion thus reducing the alternator load placed on the engine. The result is a 10% increase in fuel efficiency that when projected to the US market, translates to a 1.2 million barrel a day reduction in gasoline consumption. In addition, these devices are candidates for use in a new DOE-EERE program on zonal cooling, where the refrigeration aspects of TE materials can be used.