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A Multi-Year Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting Project for First-Year Engineering and Technology Students

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Innovative Projects in Energy Education

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.73.1 - 24.73.13



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Paper Authors


Dale H. Litwhiler Penn State - Berks

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DALE H. LITWHILER is an Associate Professor at Penn State - Berks in Reading, PA. He received his B.S. from Penn State University, M.S. from Syracuse University and Ph.D. from Lehigh University all in electrical engineering. Prior to beginning his academic career in, he worked with IBM Federal Systems and Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems as a hardware and software design engineer.

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A Multi-Year Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting Project for First-Year Engineering and Technology StudentsAbstractEnergy harvesting for continuously powering sensor networks is an emerging technology withtremendous potential. This paper is a report on progress made with involving first-yearengineering and engineering technology students with thermoelectric energy harvesting researchand prototype development that has occurred over several years. Each year, the student groupbuilt upon the work of the previous year’s group. Expectations for each team were kept realisticsuch that the goals were attainable. However, each group was required to present their work at aregional undergraduate research conference. During the first year of the project, thermoelectricgenerator (TEG) devices were characterized and tested. The students designed and constructedtest fixtures for the TEG and conducted performance tests. Mathematical models were developedand compared with actual TEG performance. During the second year, another group of first-yearstudents designed and constructed circuitry to boost the relatively small TEG output voltage to alevel more useful for powering conventional electronic devices. The boosted output voltage wasused to power all of the circuitry thus a self-sustaining system was produced. Sensors andcircuits were added to measure the TEG system temperatures and transmit them to a computerfor display. The third year’s group identified a hot water pipe within the engineering buildingthat could serve as a heat source from which a TEG could be powered. A laboratory mockup ofthe water pipe heat source was constructed such that it could be tested prior to actual installation.The group designed and fabricated a pipe-to-TEG heat exchanger and custom TEG-to-air heatsink for the cool side of the device. The performance of the system was tested for various hotwater input temperatures that will be experienced in the actual installation. This paper presentsdetails of each group’s work as well as observations of student motivation in performingundergraduate research.

Litwhiler, D. H. (2014, June), A Multi-Year Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting Project for First-Year Engineering and Technology Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19965

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