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Thermoelectric micro-generator to obtain portable and sustainable energy

20th national competition for scientific and technical research

Climate Change and Renewable Energy

Senior Researcher : Olga Caballero Calero

Research Centre or Institution : Instituto de Micro y Nanotecnología - CNM - CSIC. Madrid

Abstract

MicroTENERGY project aims to substitute conventional batteries in microdevices by an alternative generator that is sustainable, environmentally friendly, flexible and autonomous. The proposal is focused on the fabrication of micrometric-sized electrical generators based in the thermoelectric effect. This will provide a way of converting wasted heat into electric power, using heat sources such as the human body. Then, from wasted heat (that is, a sustainable energy source) a thermoelectric generator produces electric energy to power different sensor sor microdevices. Nowadays, there are some approximations to fabricate these kinds of thermoelectric generators, but they have some limitations, such as size, low efficiency, cost, etc. that will be overcome with the present project. Microtenergy is based in using a highly efficient meta-material (based on nanostructured thermoelectric semiconductors) which is easily handled at the macroscale, fabricated with methods easily scalable to the industry. The final aim is to obtain a reduced-size micro-generator that can be easily integrated in micro-devices to power them. Moreover, the project also considers to encapsulate them with a polymer, in such a way that it will be bio-compatible, to have access to the human body as a heat source (by placing the microgenerator on the skin, for instance). In such a way, there are many possible applications, in powering devices for vital signs monitoring in humans, bio-electronic systems, elastic devices, home automation applications, etc. These kinds of generators will enhance the benefits of the devices in which they will be integrated, by substituting the limited life conventional batteries by thermoelectric generators, which, among others, have no moving parts, do not require maintenance, and produce no sound.

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