Topic of research: Development of a Hydrocarbon Fuel based Micro Thermoelectric Power Generator
Description of research work:
Need for this research: Around 40 percent of rural households in India do not have access to electricity, which is a basic need for the rest of the country. Deprivation of electricity to the rural community acts as a roadblock in their overall development. Many industries and the government is trying to solve this problem with the help of renewable energy. But the problem persists because of the operational dependability of these resources on the environment and high maintenance cost. Hence there is a need for a device that can solve the problem of generating sufficient power to electrify essential household devices. Also, the miniaturization of electrical and mechanical devices for applications such as wireless equipment, micro space vehicles, and robots has led to the research of small-scale power generation devices.
Approach to the problem: A lightweight, portable TEG (Thermoelectric Generator) assisted power generator was developed, generating electricity. The main components of the device are a) combustor (heat source), b) TEG (direct conversion device), and c) heat sink. The TEG is a direct conversion device that directly converts thermal energy into electrical energy without intermediate moving blocks. TEG elements work on the principle of the Seebeck effect.
The TEG modules are placed between the combustor and the water cooling jacket to generate a temperature difference. When the two surfaces of the TEG modules are maintained at a temperature difference, a voltage is produced proportional to the temperature difference. The combustor is made of a pair of perforated plates encased in a rectangular metal box in the present case. The energy generated can be utilized by mobiles or lamps using the USB output connections.
Present status of the proposed process: At present, a water-cooled power generator in the research stage is capable of producing 22 W of electrical energy with a conversion efficiency of 3.01 %, the highest among similar power generators commercially available. The system can light up four LED bulbs. The fuel – oxidizer mixture used was LPG – air. The present study’s novelty lies in developing a high power system and its performance characterization at various operation conditions, making it a suitable alternative for various standalone, rural, and portable applications.
Project Impact: The proposed lightweight, portable design would have a long shelf life (~10 years) with no maintenance cost. The entire system weighs less than 400 g and is sized similar to a commercially available Lithium-ion power bank, indicating its portable nature.
1) The product would improve the livelihood of communities with no access to electricity.
2) The proposed prototype can be used as a standalone power generator for many rural, defense, and aerospace applications.
Future work: A self-aspirating microcombustor would help develop a standalone power generator for practical use. The scaled-up generator for 100 W electrical power output is under process.