The MAHLE Group is expanding its expertise in the field of thermoelectrics by acquiring the start-up O-Flexx Technologies. O-Flexx specializes in thermoelectric generators; its R&D center and production facilities for both low- and high-temperature modules are based in Duisburg, Germany. The purchase price will not be disclosed.
O-Flexx Technologies offers thermoelectric technology based on a thin-film approach combined with a cost-optimized, high-volume manufacturing process. O-Flexx says that its technology—protected by several patents—significantly increases conversion efficiency.The company collaborates with a partners from the industry—such as MAHLE—as well as research institutions such as the University of Duisburg-Essen, Vienna University of Technology and several Fraunhofer institutes.
O-Flexx has three generic product platforms:
Power Strap. For electricity supply in self-sufficient systems or storage in the range from 1 W to several 100 W and temperatures of up to 350 °C. The Power Strap has a plastic support structure to which copper pads are attached to maintain thermal connection between the thermoelectric generator (TEG) and the hot and cold side, and also to force electric current flow along the Power Strap.
The copper pads are separated by a small gap in the middle of the plastic strip, which is bridged by the solder-attached thermoelectric generators; bismuth telluride is used as thermoelectric material.
Power Cell. For electricity supply in self-sufficient systems, storage or feed-in in the range of kW and temperatures between 350 °C and 1,000 °C. The Power Cell is the result of the Power Strap’s consistent further development.
Different thermoelectric materials can be used with the Power Cell. In a prototype, bismuth telluride has already proven successful at lower operation temperatures. Silicon-germanium is currently being tested, as are other materials.
Power Board. For energy generation in self-sufficient sensors in the range of μW to mW. The Power Board starts to work only with a temperature difference of 3 K.
Thermoelectrics can be utilized to convert heat into electrical energy, turning previously unused waste heat into a valuable source of energy. Conversely, this technology can also contribute to generating heating or cooling from electrical energy.
Thermoelectric elements could heat the cabin of electrified vehicles. Compared with currently available standard solutions, this method is far more efficient. For electric vehicles, in particular, the previously unresolved conflict between electric cruising range and thermal comfort is thus becoming less critical. In vehicles with a combustion engine, heat from exhaust gases can be converted into electrical energy, increasing the efficiency of the combustion engine.
With O-Flexx, MAHLE is stepping up its operations to include thermoelectric technology and is thus laying the foundation for innovative heating and cooling management in every vehicle class.—Wolf-Henning Scheider, Chairman of the MAHLE Management Board and CEO
The group has already partnered with the Duisburg-based company on individual projects in the past.