, Volume 109, Issue 3, pp 1229-1235
Date: 18 Mar 2012

Novel carbon materials for thermal energy harvesting

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To decrease the consumption of fossil fuels, research has been done on utilizing low grade heat, sourced from industrial waste streams. One promising thermoenergy conversion system is a thermogalvanic cell; it consists of two identical electrodes held at different temperatures that are placed in contact with a redox-based electrolyte [1, 2]. The temperature dependence of the direction of redox reactions allows power to be extracted from the cell [3, 4]. This study aims to increase the power conversion efficiency and reduce the cost of thermogalvanic cells by optimizing the electrolyte and utilizing a carbon based electromaterial, reduced graphene oxide, as electrodes. Thermal conductivity measurements of the K3Fe(CN)6/K4Fe(CN)6 solutions used, indicate that the thermal conductivity decreases from 0.591 to 0.547 W/m K as the concentration is increased from 0.1 to 0.4 M. The lower thermal conductivity allowed a larger temperature gradient to be maintained in the cell. Increasing the electrolyte concentration also resulted in higher power densities, brought about by a decrease in the ohmic overpotential of the cell, which allowed higher values of short circuit current to be generated. The concentration of 0.4 M K3Fe(CN)6/K4Fe(CN)6 is optimal for thermal harvesting applications using R-GO electrodes due to the synergistic effect of the reduction in thermal flux across the cell and the enhancement of power output, on the overall power conversion efficiency. The maximum mass power density obtained using R-GO electrodes was 25.51 W/kg (three orders of magnitude higher than platinum) at a temperature difference of 60 °C and a K3Fe(CN)6/K4Fe(CN)6 concentration of 0.4 M.