Thermoelectric (TE) devices are solid state heat engines that directly convert thermal to electrical power (Seebeck Effect) and the reverse, electrical to thermal power (Peltier Effect). The phenomena were first discovered over 150 years ago and until recently have been more of a scientific curiosity than a practical technology of commercial interest. However, as governments impose regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and as the long-term availability of fossil fuels is questioned, alternative technologies, including thermoelectrics, are being explored to meet the challenges that arise from these new conditions.
Amerigon, the parent of BSST, is the largest supplier of thermoelectric (TE) devices to the automotive market. Over the last ten years BSST has been developing TE technology for the transportation market. Recent advancements at the system level made by BSST and improvements in TE materials made by several organizations indicate a path to improved performance and economic feasibility. This report discusses development of TE Generator (TEG) technology and of a TEG system installed in the power train of internal combustion engines for the purpose of converting waste heat to electric power. Our work has been made possible, in part, through sponsorship by the United States Department of Energy Office of Vehicle Technologies. The BMW Group, Ford Motor Company and Faurecia are partners in the BSST-led program.