Komatsu Nearing Launch Of Thermoelectric Generation Modules

January 29, 2009 by Jeff Shepard

Through KELK Ltd., its wholly owned subsidiary, Komatsu Ltd. announced that it is going to launch the commercial production and sales of thermoelectric generation modules.

KELK is described as the world’s top manufacturer of temperature-control equipment for use in semiconductor manufacturing and an integrated manufacturer and the industry-pacesetter, engaging in research, production and sales of thermoelectric modules, heat exchangers and applied products. KELK also claims to be the global leader for thermoelectric modules (Peltier devices).

Thermoelectric modules are mainly used to control temperature (cooling) with electricity. Thermoelectric generation modules work on the reverse mechanism, capable of generating electricity by using heat (thermoelectric generation).

Thermoelectric generation has been attracting keen attention as a next-generation regeneratable energy. Thanks to this technology, it is now possible to recover a massive amount of waste heat at production facilities, power plants, incinerators and other industrial facilities, and convert it to electric power. Especially when waste heat from plants is regularly used, it is possible to make regenerated energy cheaper than solar power generation. Moreover, when this technology is applied by a variety of industries, it is expected to reduce CO2 emissions which are known to cause global warming.

Komatsu’s thermoelectric generation modules boast what is said to be a 50% or higher output power density compared to similar products on the market, thereby offering a large merit to customers in their operating costs. Looking ahead, Komatsu is conducting research in applications designed to regenerate electric energy from the exhaust gas of construction equipment.

Among the technical features: the units have what is described as the world’s top conversion efficiency, with an ability to generate a large output even with a relatively small difference in temperature (functional conditions: 280°C in the high-temperature side and 30°C in the low-temperature side); high output power density at approximately 1W/cm²; simplified handling of circuits thanks to the low current of 3A and high voltage of 8V at the maximum output.

The units are 50 x 50 x 4.2mm (excluding the lead wire), with a temperature range for use: 280°C (max.) and 250°C or lower (normal) in the high-temperature side and 150°C (max.) in the low-temperature side, and a conversion efficiency of Max. 7.2%.

The company will start receiving orders in May 2009, with a price of 30,000 yen for each module (minimum order: 50 modules).