Integration of high temperature thermoelectric converter for electricity generation in a solid oxide fuel cell system (HITTEC)

Scope of project

Nowadays, intelligent and sustainable strategies by interdisciplinary thinking are needed to save energy resources and to further reduce fuel consumption as well as CO2 emission (Swiss 2000W Society). Towards this direction, a thermoelectric converter (TEC), which converts a heat/temperature gradient into valuable electricity, is a promising fuel saving technique:

The visionary & challenging research activity of the HITTEC consortium is the development of high temperature thermoelectric modules working as an integrated device in a solid oxide fuel cell system (SOFC) or other heat & power plants (CHP) in a decentralised concept. Such a combined high-tech system would realize a substantial progress in electric efficiency by converting waste heat directly into highly valuable electricity. This is attractive for SOFC and CHP developers as well as for public, because electric efficiency is substantially increased. The main tasks of this interdisciplinary project are the development of highly efficient, oxide based and therefore cost-effective and harmless TEC materials and their implementation and integration into a stationary μ-CHP technology. This comprises n- & p-type material design, including modelling and theoretical prediction of thermoelectric characteristics, and the synthesis, evaluation & application of such nanostructured functional materials in a thermoelectric module for temperatures up to 900°C. On TEC module level strategies for an effective TEC implementation into the CHP system are developed with a focus on design, structure and geometric aspects for the thermoelectric converter. Such a highly complex approach needs the strong will and engagement of a multidisciplinary consortium of material scientists, physicists, chemists and engineers.

The overall aim of this consortium is the development of a high temperature TEC module for an increased power-to-heat ratio in stationary CHP systems, such as a μ-SOFC. As specific power output of the TEC module of 75 mW/cm2 is aimed for, what corresponds to an overall power output of about 100 W per SOFC system: an increase of 10% in the electrical efficiency of the system.


Dr. André Heel, Empa
Telephone: +41 58 765 4199