Energy Sustainability Through the Use of Thermoelectric Materials in Waste Heat Recovery Systems Recent Developments and Challenges

  • Emilia MotoascaEmail author
Part of the Energy, Environment, and Sustainability book series (ENENSU)


In many applications, only a reduced percentage (industrial processes 30–40%, internal combustion engines ICE 25%, photovoltaic systems PV 15%, etc.) of the primary energy is converted into useful energy. Increased energy efficiency can be realized through better performance of the involved devices, but also through the recovery of the energy losses. Partial recovery of the losses (mainly heat) may be done using mechanical means (turbines, Stirling generators, solar collectors), but still, the heat wasted to environment remains important. In this context, the thermoelectric generators (TEG) based on (novel) thermoelectric materials may offer a good alternative for heat recovery, since TEGs are static devices that in principle do not require maintenance and may work even in harsh environments, like, e.g., space, extreme cold, etc. Besides, TEGs can be used together with PV systems in hybrid installations to harvest more energy from the solar radiation. Up to date, expensive (due to complex manufacturing and scarcity of used materials) and not so efficient (due to low figure of merit ZT < 1 and inefficient MPPT techniques) TEGs have not been applied at large scale for low-grade heat recovery and for (solar) energy harvesting in smart buildings. However, in recent years, many research and development activities around TE-materials are going on worldwide and there is more pressure to increase the energy efficiency of many heat wasting processes and of (solar) energy harvesting in smart buildings. Potential of existent, commercially available TEGs and of emerging TEGs is investigated taking into account their properties, their past and emerging usage related to industrial and residential waste heat recovery and (solar) energy harvesting.


Thermoelectric materials Thermoelectric generator (TEG) Waste heat recovery Hybrid thermal/PV systems 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Engineering Technology, Department of Electrical EngineeringKU LeuvenGhentBelgium

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