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Microscale Thermal and Power Management
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energy harvesting

The efficiency of power generation is increasingly important across all market segments. As energy costs continue to skyrocket, system efficiency is becoming an increasingly important attribute. Extracting waste heat from a system and converting some percentage of that heat into usable energy is one way in which system efficiency can be improved.

Energy harvesting, or energy scavenging, is the process whereby a portion of energy is removed, captured and stored from an existing source of unused but available energy. The use of thermoelectrics, in which a temperature difference creates an electric potential, can convert waste heat from thermal sources into usable electricity. For example, the heat from an exhaust stack at a manufacturing facility can provide power for devices such as wireless sensors used for chemical analysis of the smoke stack effluent. Heat produced during combustion in an automobile engine can be harvested to charge the battery. Harvesting thermal energy can improve the overall efficiency of existing combustion-based devices such as gasoline-powered automobiles or in the future, hydrogen burning fuel cells.

The applications that stand out, both in terms of feasibility and market size, are micro power (e.g., powering remote sensors or other portable applications) and automobile waste heat energy conversion.