The researchers are developing a thermoelectric energy harvester that will require no heat sink to produce enough power to run wireless sensors from very low temperature differentials. Existing products require heat sinks that are about 10 times the size of the harvester itself. If successful, this product will require one-tenth the space and half the cost for harvesting power from waste heat as current methods. It will allow maintenance-free power supply for small applications wherever a waste heat source (even human body heat) is available.
Applications are broad: any situation where a few milliwatts of power are needed and a surface temperature as low as 40°C is available. Specifically, the researchers envision the product as a thermal battery for powering wireless sensor devices. The global market for these devices was $1.2 billion in 2013. The wireless device will fuse into the Internet of Things, which is forecast to be a multi-trillion-dollar market by 2025.
Patent application 14/816,240 “Freestanding Thermoelectric Energy Conversion Device,” was filed by the Penn State Research Foundation in August, 2015. Patent Cooperation Treaty PCT/US2015/043576. The technology is exclusively licensed to Impulse Technology, LLC.