Fraunhofer characterizes Alphabet Energy thermoelectric PowerCard; up to 5% fuel economy improvement in automotive
Alphabet Energy is commercializing low-cost, efficient thermoelectric materials for power generation leveraging technology initially developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (Earlier post.)
The company has now announced characterization from the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM of heat flow and thermal resistance (in air) of the Alphabet Energy PowerCard, the company’s core thermoelectric device for power generation. The PowerCard has shipped to customers in a variety of industries, including automotive; has been tested extensively; and is now entering high-volume production.
|The PowerCard. Source: Alphabet Energy. Click to enlarge.|
The PowerCard generates power from exhaust source temperatures ranging from 400-600 °C using Alphabet Energy’s proprietary thermoelectric materials: tetrahedrite and magnesium silicide stannide.
Competing materials, such as skutterudites and half-Heuslers, rely on rare and critical elements subject to scarcity and price volatility, making them unreliable for commercial scale, Alphabet Energy said. The tetrahedrite and magnesium silicide stannide combination consists of the most abundant and scalable elements available for high-temperature materials, enabling the PowerCard to meet commercial requirements for a wide range of applications from remote power generation in industrial settings to waste heat recovery in the automotive industry.
Fraunhofer IPM’s independent testing of heat flow and thermal resistance characterizes the performance of the Alphabet Energy PowerCard™ at high temperatures. We’re addressing our market needs for high-efficiency, low-cost with a light-element thermoelectric that operates with high efficiency and reliability in air.—Doug Crane, Director of Thermoelectric Engineering, Alphabet Energy
In testing conducted at Alphabet Energy’s labs, the PowerCard generates over 9 watts of electricity at 5% efficiency with a hot-side temperature of 400 °C and a cold-side temperature of 100 °C, outperforming competing technologies that are able to produce around six watts (skutterudites, half-Heuslers) and two watts (bismuth telluride) when tested under the same conditions. Furthermore, the PowerCard has displayed high reliability through large numbers of thermal cycles and time at temperature in air.
These advancements with our PowerCard technology are truly unique from a materials science perspective, and align with our mission of being the “Intel-inside” for waste heat recovery.—Matt Scullin, founder & CEO, Alphabet Energy
In addition to the significant advancements with thermoelectric materials science, the PowerCard represents a culmination of technological advances in manufacturing, metallization, package design, coatings, and assembly materials and processes.
Alphabet Energy has shipped PowerCard prototypes to a variety of customers, both stand-alone and as part of the larger PowerModule (which contains many PowerCards), in energy-intensive markets including, automotive, commercial trucking, oil & gas, industrial manufacturing, defense, and consumer appliances.
|Source: Alphabet Energy. Click to enlarge.|
Automotive. According to a McKinsey Quarterly report, the connected cars of the future will “become less like metal boxes and more like integrators of multiple technologies, productive data centers.”
The automotive industry is working to meet the increased electrical power requirements of the future car (e.g., connected, semiautonomous) while also achieving fuel efficiency standards (e.g., US EPA CAFE Standards).
The Alphabet Energy PowerModule is being used by an automotive OEM and tier-one supplier to address this challenge, and is expected to improve fuel efficiency by 5%, reducing the load on the alternator and generating the necessary electrical power to keep up with the future car’s electronics.