24 May 2013 Wearable and flexible thermoelectric generator with enhanced package
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Present work shows recent progresses in thin film-based flexible and wearable thermoelectric generator (TEG), finalized to support energy scavenging and local storage for low consumption electronics in Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) applications and buildings integration. The proposed TEG is able to recover energy from heat dispersed into the environment converting a thermal gradient to an effective electrical energy available to power ultra-low consumption devices. A low cost fabrication process based on planar thin-film technology was optimized to scale down the TEG dimensions to micrometer range. The prototype integrates 2778 thermocouples of sputtered Sb2Te3 and Bi2Te3 thin films (1 μm thick) on an area of 25 cm2. The electrical properties of thermoelectric materials were investigated by Van der Pauw measurements. Transfer Length Method (TLM) analysis was performed on three different multi-layer contact schemes in order to select the best solution to use for the definition of the contact pads realized on each section of the thermoelectric array configuration to allow electrical testing of single production areas. Kapton polyimide film was used as flexible substrate in order to add comfortable lightweight and better wearability to the device. The realized TEG is able to autonomously recover the thermal gradient useful to thermoelectric generation thanks to an appropriate package designed and optimized by a thermal analysis based on finite element method (FEM). The proposed package solution consists in coupling the module realized onto Kapton foil to a PDMS layer opportunely molded to thermally insulate TEG cold junctions and enhance the thermal gradient useful for the energy scavenging. Simulations results were compared to experimental tests performed by a thermal infrared camera, in order to evaluate the real performance of the designed package. First tests conducted on the realized TEG indicate that the prototype is able to recover about 5°C between hot and cold thermocouples junctions with a thermal difference of 17°C initially available between body skin and environment, generating about 2 V of open circuit output voltage.
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L. Francioso, C. De Pascali, A. Taurino, P. Siciliano, A. De Risi, "Wearable and flexible thermoelectric generator with enhanced package", Proc. SPIE 8763, Smart Sensors, Actuators, and MEMS VI, 876306 (24 May 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2017385; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2017385

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