Optimization of Thermal Energy Harvesting Prototype to Maximize Electric Energy From Asphalt Pavement




Ortega, Andrew

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This study emphasizes on the optimization of a thermal energy harvesting system design to generate electricity from wasted thermal heat captured by asphalt pavement structures. The proposed prototype uses a Thermal Electric Generator (TEG) that produces voltage when exposed to a thermal gradient. Maximizing the thermal gradient across the surfaces of the TEG is the main objective of this research. Finite Element modelling in the software package called ABAQUS was used to optimize the shape of the energy harvesting system, while laboratory testing was used to improve insulation and cooling systems.

The purpose of this study is to convert the thermal heat gradient in asphalt pavement to produce electric power for LED lighting. A modification to the developed prototype from a previous study has been developed to incorporate a cooling procedure and amplified voltage chip.

Through the use of finite element analysis, a more efficient shape was developed that was able to better assist in heat transfer. The transition to the 'L shape' copper element from the 'Z shape', a major achievement discussed throughout this text, uses less material and can potentially generate more electrical output. Results from the numerical simulation show the system can take achieve a 12 degree Celsius thermal gradient. For laboratory testing, the 'L shape' was design and constructed in the lab to determine the feasibility and efficiency of the system. Applied heating in a controlled system allows us to measure output from the thermal harvester. The simulated tests yielded results that the energy harvesting system can produce 8 mWatts of electrical power. This amount of power is comparable to the output previously recorded, and if the design is scaled up, can compete with other sources of power. The research that follows is focused on the optimization of the thermal energy harvesting system previous designed by the University of Texas at San Antonio.


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Energy, Harvesting, Pavement, Sustainable, Thermoelectric



Civil and Environmental Engineering