Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Thermoelectric Power Generation
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Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are a vital part of the oceanographer’s toolbox, allowing long-term measurements across a range of ocean depths of a number of ocean properties such as salinity, fluorescence, and temperature profile. Buoyancy-based gliding, rather than direct propulsion, dramatically reduces AUV power consumption and allows long-duration missions on the order of months rather than hours or days, allowing large distances to be analyzed or many successive analyses of a certain area without the need for retrieval. Recent versions of these gliders have seen the buoyancy variation system change from electrically powered to thermally powered using phase-change materials, however a significant battery pack is still required to power communications and sensors, with power consumption in the region of 250 mW. The authors propose a novel application of a thermoelectric generation system, utilizing the depth-related variation in oceanic temperature. A thermal energy store provides a temperature differential across which a thermoelectric device can generate from repeated dives, with the primary purpose of extending mission range. The system is modeled in Simulink to analyze the effect of variation in design parameters. The system proves capable of generating all required power for a modern AUV.
KeywordsAutonomous vehicle AUV robotic thermoelectric harvesting
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