Direct Contact Heat Exchanger for Thermoelectric Power Generation

Physical Sciences : Automotive

Available for licensing


  • Matthew Hall, Ph.D. , Mechanical Engineering
  • Li Shi, Ph.D. , Mechanical Engineering

Background/unmet need

Automotive engineering technology is becoming more focused on optimization of energy use than ever before. Electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles are gaining in popularity due to the dramatic technological gains in battery designs, the development of recharging station infrastructure, and the desire to control emissions from internal combustion engines.

Invention Description

A thermoelectric device creates voltage when there is a temperature difference across it, or conversely when a voltage is applied it creates a temperature gradient by causing charge carriers at the atomic level to diffuse from the hot side to the cold side. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a novel design that enables the hot side of the thermoelectric device to be located directly in the hot gas exhaust stream. For the first time, the use of a thermoelectric energy generator can be employed directly in the engine exhaust system to generate electricity to be stored in a capacitor for rapid discharge (engine starting), or stored in a battery for use as power over time, or used directly to drive electrical systems using the engine exhaust.


  • Improved energy generation
  • Elimination of the typical mode of failure: fracture of the bonding between hot side aluminum and hot side ceramic


    Design allows for tightly packed configurations which enable smaller size overall

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status