A robust, efficient, high-temperature thermoelectric power generator based on polymer-derived ceramics

Period of Performance: 06/13/2016 - 03/12/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Sporian Microsystems, Inc.
515 Courtney Way Suite B
Lafayette, CO 80026
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


Static power generation systems are needed that can be lightweight, robust, high-temperature and operate at efficiencies of 15 % or greater in radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) applications. Among the potential candidates to address these needs, thermoelectric generators (TEG) offer the promise to convert thermal energy from a radioisotope heat source into electric power, improving power consumption and reducing operational costs. How this problem is being addressed: Sporian proposes to design, build, and evaluate TEG systems based on ultra high-temperature ceramic materials previously developed for sensor applications. These ceramics are non-oxide and exhibit high thermal, chemical, and mechanical stability at temperatures in excess of 1600 °C, making them readily capable of operating in harsh environment and high temperature systems. What is to be done in Phase I: Initially, Sporian’s work will focus on a proof-of-concept thermoelectric unicouple utilizing these non-oxide ceramics. Sporian will design the proof-of-concept device with advanced prototypes in mind, to streamline progression towards 1 kW-level systems for unmanned/remote spacecraft, and eventually to 10 kW-level systems for manned spacecraft and extraterrestrial habitats. Phase I work will involve in-house TEG material development, key material property characterization, prototype demonstration, and fostering OEM testing opportunities for any subsequent Phase II award. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: Commercial applications include waste heat recovery, space missions, wireless sensor networks, renewable energy systems, automotive, turbine engine sensing, natural gas processing . Key Words: Thermoelectric generator, radioisotope, polymer-derived ceramic, energy conversion