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Development of the First Thermoelectric Module Composed Entirely of Abundant Elements

—Significant Advances in the Development of IoT Devices Equipped with Autonomous Power Supply Units—

New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)
National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS)
Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd.
Ibaraki University

NEDO, NIMS, Aisin Seiki, and Ibaraki University have developed a high-performance thermoelectric material composed exclusively of abundant chemical elements (iron, aluminum, and silicon) capable of generating sufficient electricity when subjected to a low-temperature heat source to drive IoT devices and allow them to perform BLE communications. The group then used this material to develop a novel thermoelectric module. We plan to promote widespread use of this technology, which may effectively supply electricity to IoT devices.

Abstract

The prevalence of IoT devices—which collect and communicate various types of data—is expected to grow rapidly as the “super-smart society” concept is put into practice. For this reason, small, autonomous power sources capable of supplying electricity to a wide variety of IoT devices urgently need to be developed. Thermoelectric generators that exploit temperature differences are a particularly promising technology for this purpose, but existing thermoelectric materials contain scarce or toxic chemical elements. New high-performance thermoelectric modules that are resistant to oxidation, have desirable mechanical properties and are able to generate sufficient power within the low-temperature range between room temperature and 200°C need to be produced from abundant and nontoxic elements. These conditions need to be met if these autonomous generators—which produce electricity using the small temperature differences that occur in the environments in which IoT devices are used—are to enter widespread use. Development of thermoelectric modules requires high-performance thermoelectric materials free of scarce or toxic elements, reliable bonding technologies and module assembly techniques compatible with mass production.

In light of these demands, NEDO, NIMS, Aisin Seiki, and Ibaraki University launched an R&D project in FY2018 to develop a high-performance iron-aluminum-silicon-based thermoelectric material and techniques for assembling modules using the material.

These four organizations succeeded in increasing the performance of an iron-aluminum-silicon-based thermoelectric material. The group then used this material to develop a novel, small thermoelectric module, enabling it to generate sufficient electricity when subjected to a low-temperature heat source to drive IoT devices and allow them to perform BLE communication. Because this module is composed solely of widely available elements, it may reduce production costs by as much as 80% when compared with those of conventional thermoelectric modules made of bismuth-tellurium compounds, potentially reducing overall module production costs and enabling mass production. Highly durable and thermally stable, this module could be incorporated into a wide variety of IoT devices as an autonomous power source, potentially significantly advancing the development of these integrated systems.

Based on these results, we plan to promote widespread, full-scale use of this thermoelectric module, which is capable of autonomously generating electricity using small temperature differences within the low-temperature range between room temperature and 200°C. This technology may effectively supply electricity to IoT devices, which are expected to grow rapidly in popularity.


"figure: Thermoelectric module" Image

figure: Thermoelectric module




Contacts

NEDO Energy Conservation Technology Department
TEL:+81-44-520-5281 (Kondo)
NEDO Innovation Promotion Department
TEL:+81-44-520-5174 (ide)
Takagiwa Yoshiki
Senior Researcher
Thermoelectric Materials Group
Center for Green Research on Energy and Environmental Materials
National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS)
TEL : +81-29-859-2811
E-Mail: TAKAGIWA.Yoshiki=nims.go.jp
Public Relations Office
National Institute for Materials Sciences
Tel: +81-29-859-2026
Fax: +81-29-859-2017
E-Mail: pressrelease=ml.nims.go.jp
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Peltier Team (Kojima)
Heat Pump Group
Energy Engineering Dept.
Life & Energy Product Div.
AISIN SEIKI CO., LTD.
TEL : +81-566-20-6319
Public Relations Office (Yamazaki)
Ibaraki University
TEL : +81-29-228-8008