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DOE to Host Thermoelectrics Applications Workshop

The US Department of Energy is planning to hold the 2009 Thermoelectrics Applications Workshop 29 September to 2 October in San Diego, CA. The purpose of the Workshop is to expand the interest in thermoelectrics for automotive as well as other applications, such as directly converting waste heat from industrial processes, geothermal, stationary power prime movers (gas turbines and diesels), rail, marine and off-highway equipment to electricity.

The DOE Vehicle Technologies (VT) Program has been supporting the development and application thermoelectrics in vehicles. As a result, it is expected that within 5 years, the first generation thermoelectric generators that will directly convert engine waste heat to electricity will be commercially introduced in the automotive market.

DOE/VT is also jointly funding, with the California Energy Commission (CEC), competitively selected project teams headed by Ford and GM to develop automotive thermoelectric heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (TE HVAC) systems, using the zonal concept of cooling or heating only the occupants and not the whole cabin.

TE HVAC systems are strong candidates to replace current vehicular air conditioners using the refrigerant gas R-134a with a global warming potential that is 1,300 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The successful deployment of these two automotive applications will greatly expand the volume of thermoelectric materials to supply the auto market here and abroad, providing an added stimulus to develop more efficient thermoelectrics, improve scale up production capabilities, and reduce cost with volume production as has historically been the case with semiconductor devices.

The workshop will have Key Principal Investigators summarize their work. Project Engineers on the DOE/VC TEG and TE HVAC efforts will provide a summary of their design efforts. Representatives from the fabrication community will be invited to discuss scale up and commercial viability. Department of Defense representatives will be asked to present an overview of the thermoelectric related R&D (unclassified) that they are supporting and define some of their applications interest. DOE is also inviting representatives from Europe and Asia to provide a summary of their thermoelectric activities.


Henry Gibson

Rankine cycle converters have been used with combustion engines for more than a century. It was invented as the Still-cycle. Hot exhaust gas turbo generators have been invented and they can be used without large amounts of highly refined semiconductors.

Everbody who reads this site should find the most thorough description of the Kitson-Still diesel-steam hybrid locomotive that used steam pistons for starting, not only the diesel engine, but also the train, and the steam pistons were also available for extra power at times. Steam acted on the crankshaft side of double acting pistons and the outside cylinder was diesel. Diesel was not fed to the diesel cylinders until the train was moving at about 2.5 MPH, then the diesel injection started and the steam flow stopped. Heat was recovered from the cylinders and the exhaust. A small diesel burner preheated the steam. The locomotive burned one sixth the weight of fuel for the equivalent work by a coal burning standard steam locomotive. In the US the Southern Pacific, that already burned oil in steam locomotives, would have saved a lot of money on fuel. They would be saving a lot of money with new modified copies that incorporated better insulation, alloys and materials. It is a real surprize that Chinese manufacturers did not perfect such a locomotive for their railroads a few years ago. Dimethyl-ether made from coal would be a very clean fuel for such locomotive and they would be cheaper and more efficient than any diesel electric versions. However the steam starting and the slow piston speeds would allow for cheap heavy fuel oil to be used. Still engines were used in ships and stationary installations; They were the first combined cycle engines. ..HG..


Henry, your description makes it obvious that the Kitson-Still was built to solve the problem of starting a diesel-powered train without using a clutch.  Now everything is diesel-electric, and there are no clutches; neither are there any problems with steam seals, crossheads or water getting into engine oil.  If bottoming cycles could improve efficiency enough to be worthwhile, you can bet that GE and others would be using them.

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