2020 journal article

Flexible thermoelectric generators for body heat harvesting - Enhanced device performance using high thermal conductivity elastomer encapsulation on liquid metal interconnects


author keywords: Thermoelectric generators; Body heat harvesters; Flexible electronics; Thermally conductive polymers
UN Sustainable Development Goal Categories
7. Affordable and Clean Energy (Web of Science; OpenAlex)
Source: Web Of Science
Added: March 30, 2020

This paper reports flexible thermoelectric generators (TEGs) employing eutectic gallium indium (EGaIn) liquid metal interconnects encased in a novel, high thermal conductivity (HTC) elastomer. These TEGs are part of a broader effort to harvest thermal energy from the body and convert it into electrical energy to power wearable electronics. The flexible TEGs reported in this paper employ the same thermoelectric legs' used in rigid TEGs, thus eliminating the need to develop new materials specifically for flexible TEGs that often sacrifice the so-called figure of merit' for flexibility. Flexible TEGs reported here embed rigid thermoelectric legs' in soft and flexible packaging, using stretchable EGaIn interconnects. The use of liquid metal interconnects provides ultimate stretchability and low electrical resistance between the thermoelectric legs. The liquid metal lines are encased in a new stretchable silicone elastomer doped with both graphene nano-platelets and EGaIn to increase its thermal conductivity. This high thermal conductivity elastomer not only reduces the parasitic thermal resistance of the encapsulation layer but it also serves as a heat spreader, leading to 1.7X improvement in the output power density of TEGs compared to devices fabricated with a conventional elastomer. The device performance is further improved by a thin Cu layer acting as a heat spreader providing an additional 1.3X enhancement in the output power at 1.2 m/s air velocity (typical walking speed). Worn on the wrist, our best devices achieve power levels in excess of 30 μW/cm2 at an air velocity of 1.2 m/s outperforming previously reported flexible TEGs.