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Effect of Heat Pipes to Suppress Heat Leakage for Thermoelectric Generator of Energy Harvesting

Toshihiko Ishiyama
Department of Information Engineering Kushiro National College of Technology, Kushiro, Japan t-ishi@kushiro-ct.ac.jp

Hiroaki Yamada
Graduate School of Life Science and Systems Engineering Kyushu Institute of Technology, Kitakyushu, Japan hiroaki-ymd@life.kyutech.ac.jp

Abstract Effect of heat pipes is described for suppressing heat leakage of the thermoelectric generator, which is used as the power source of energy harvesting. The experimental results show that the heat pipes are effective in suppressing heat leakage even if the temperature difference was small. By increasing the number of heat pipes, the output of thermoelectric generation was stable during the experiment. Keywords-component; Energy harvesting, Seebeck effect, thermoelectric generator, heat pipe

can power electricity effectively. However, it has not been still unclear how the heat pipes suppress heat leakage, and can continue power generation of thermoelectric generator effectively. This paper describes characteristics of heat pipes for suppressing of heat leakage in thermoelectric generation.

II.

INFLUENCE OF HEAT LEAKAGE

I.

INTRODUCTION

Energy harvesting can power from the ambient energy, such as electromagnetic wave energy, solar energy, mechanical energy, and thermal energy [1], [2]. Energy harvesting interests as the power source of maintenance-free power supply system [3]. There are some candidates for power generation by using thermal energy, such as thermoelectric generation, thermoacoustic generation, thermo-photo-voltaic generation, thermomagnetic generation, and thermionic generation. The thermoelectric generator (TEG) is popular with power generation using the thermal energy. The thermoelectric generator is also suitable as the power source of energy harvesting for small electronic devices [4], [5]. In thermoelectric generation, it is important to power efficiently under condition of a small temperature difference. The following subjects are pointed out when the thermoelectric generator is used as power generation. Energy harvesting uses waste energy source, which temperature is not so high. A small temperature difference can only generate a small electric power. Heat leakage also reduces the temperature difference between the two sides of a thermoelectric module (Seebeck device), and reduces electric power during long-term operation [6]. Heat pipes are proposed to suppress influence of heat leakage in thermoelectric generator [5], [7]. By connecting between the thermoelectric module and cooling fins with heat pipes, heat pipes can transfer thermal energy from low temperature side of thermoelectric module to cooling fans. It can keep temperature difference between high temperature side and low temperature side of the thermoelectric module. Thus, heat leakage can be suppressed, and thermoelectric generator

Heat leakage is phenomenon that thermal energy transfers from the high temperature side to the low temperature side of the thermoelectric module. Heat transfer reduces temperature difference (T). It results in decreasing in output power of thermoelectric generation. In energy harvesting, the thermoelectric generator uses waste energy as the heat source. The temperature of a waste heat source is usually relatively low (~100 C). In such case, the temperature difference is less than 80 C when the low temperature side of thermoelectric module is about 20 C. In thermoelectric generation, temperature difference of 80 C is not large, and temperature difference is about 20 50 C usually. Heat leakage can reduce temperature difference further. It results in reducing power generation, and becomes energy harvesting useless. Thus, heat leakage shall be suppressed for thermoelectric generation. III. EXPERIMENTAL

A. Experimental Procedure The thermoelectric generator system with heat pipes is shown in Fig. 1. Thermoelectric modules were set on a heat sink. Heat pipes connect the heat sink to fins. The output power characteristics were measured to discuss the effects of the heat pipes, and compared the thermoelectric generator system without heat pipes. Two thermoelectric devices (4 cm 4 cm) were wrapped with thermal tape so that they acted as one thermoelectric module. The electric terminals of the thermoelectric modules were connected in series. The heat sink and fins were made of aluminum. Sixeight heat pipes were used in the experiment.

The output power obtained from the thermoelectric generator was measured by connecting the load resistance. The output voltage generated by the thermoelectric module was less than 1 V, so a TPS61200 DCDC converter (Texas Instruments) was used to boost the voltage. The DCDC converter can convert the input voltage of 0.3-0.6V to the output voltage of 3.3 V. Hot water (30-75 C) in a glass pot was used as the heat source. The temperature difference was defined as the difference between the temperature of the hot water (TH) and the ambient temperature (TL).

IV.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

A. Experimental Results The output power characteristics of the thermoelectric generator are shown as a function of the temperature difference (Fig. 3). The output power reduced as the temperature difference decreased. Even though the temperature difference was only 18 C, the thermoelectric generator could provide 1.2 mW. If a power of 1 mW is supplied stably, thermoelectric generator can be used as the power source because a power of 1 mW is sufficient to drive the low-power electric device.

Figure 1.

Schematic diagram of thermoelectric generator system with heat pipes

Figure 3. Output power characteristics as function of temperature difference

B. Simulation Procedure The effect of heat pipes on heat transfer characteristics were also analyzed by computer simulation. The finite element method (FEM) was employed as the analysis model. The analysis model was constructed with the computer-aided design software Pro/ENGINEER (Parametric Technology). The heat sink was connected with the fins via heat pipes (Fig. 2). A thermoelectric module was attached at the surface of the heat sink. The heat source was set at the thermoelectric module. The heat transfer process was also discussed by using CFD (Computer Fluid Dynamics) simulation.

Energy harvesting can use waste heat source, which has a small temperature difference. Furthermore, heat leakage reduces the temperature difference. Temperature was measured at the fins to evaluate influence of heat leakage and suppression by heat pipes in Fig. 4. Temperature of heat source was 77 C and the ambient temperature was 23 C. Temperature at fins increased as the experiment proceeds. Thermal energy transferred from the heat source to the fins, and decrease in temperature difference was suppressed. Temperature increased only 1.8 C at fins by equipping 8 heat pipes after 900 s. Without heat pipes, temperature at fins increased to 4.2 C as

Figure 2. Heat transfer analysis model [7] Figure 4. Temperature at fins with and without heat pipes

the experiment proceeds. It means that thermal energy transfers from the thermoelectric module, and accumulates at fins when the heat pipes are not used. As heat leakage reduced temperature difference between both sides of the thermoelectric module, it results in reducing the output power of thermoelectric generator. The output power characteristics of thermoelectric generator, which has a heat sink with and without heat pipes, were measured to investigate effects of the heat pipes (Fig. 5). After 600 s, the output power decreased slightly when using the heat sink system with heat pipes. On the other hand, the output power decreased more drastically as the experiment proceeded by using the heat sink system without heat pipes. The experimental results show that the heat pipes are effective in suppressing heat leakage and can maintain the temperature difference for thermoelectric generation. This implies that the thermoelectric module with a heat sink and heat pipes is suitable as a power generator for the lowpower devices. Therefore, energy harvesting can be used as the power generator, even though its power source relies on small waste heat energy.

Figure 6. Simulated temperature distribution with and without heat pipes

Thermal transfer in the heat pipe is simulated using the fluid model. The model was based on a simple convective heat transfer. Steady-state temperature distribution in the heat pipe is shown in Fig. 7. The temperature of heat sink was set as 75 C, and the ambient temperature was set as 25 C. The length of heat pipe was set as 0.07 m. The simulation result suggests that temperature was almost same in the heat pipe. Heat pipes can transfer thermal energy quickly. So the heat pipes can keep the temperature difference. Considering the results of Figs. 6 and 7, heat pipes can proceed with thermal transfer, and heat leakage can be suppressed. Thermal transfer in the pipe was also simulated based on the Navier-Stokes equations in ref. [8]. These simulation results also confirm that thermal energy transfers from the thermoelectric module to the low temperature side via heat pipes. It means that the thermoelectric generator can generate power constantly during long-term operation, by suppressing heat leakage with heat pipes.

Figure 5. Output power characteristics with and without heat pipes

B. Discussion The temperature distribution in region of the heat sink and the fins was simulated in a steady-state heat transfer simulation with analysis model in Fig. 2 [7]. In case of using heat pipes, the fin temperature was 48 C when temperature of heat source was 75 C (Fig. 6). On the other hand, the temperature distribution was almost uniform from the heat source to the fins in the case that the heat sink and fins were connected directly (without heat pipes). Heat pipes reduced temperature of 26 C between heat source and the fins. They can keep the temperature difference during the experiment. Simulation result confirms the experimental results of Fig. 4. It directly means that the heat pipes were effective in thermal transfer and could suppress heat leakage.

Figure 7. Simulated temperature distribution in heat pipes

V.

CONCLUSION

Effect of heat pipes was discussed to suppress heat leakage for thermoelectric generator, which is used as the power source of energy harvesting. The experimental results showed that the heat pipes were effective in suppressing heat leakage even if the temperature difference was about 50 C. By increasing the number of heat pipes, the output power was slightly reduced during power generation. The simulation results also confirmed the experimental results. Therefore, heat pipes are effective for thermoelectric energy harvesting for the small temperature difference.

REFERENCES
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