A team of Virginia Tech engineers has received a three-year, $1.5 million award from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy (earlier post) to develop new thermoelectric materials and specific designs to improve fuel efficiency and reduce pollution.
The researchers will use new techniques to rapidly synthesize skutterudites and silicides that are thermoelectric in nature. By carefully tailoring the composition and structure of these new materials, the aim is to develop efficient thermoelectric materials that can be manufactured at large scales and low cost. These new materials will be integrated into optimized heat exchanger modules that will extract heat from the vehicle exhaust, allowing for the thermoelectric materials to generate useful electric power from energy in the exhaust that currently is wasted.
Undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in the research and will be given opportunities for internships with the industrial partner, Romny Scientific, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. The research will be integrated into course work including an existing graduate course with a specific focus on energy harvesting.