Cross-campus team receives ARPA-E funding to develop novel waste heat capture system

11/2/2009 5:08:00 PM

A proposal submitted by a team of researchers from across the engineering campus is among 37 projects awarded during the first round of funding under the recently formed U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

Sanjiv Sinha
Sanjiv Sinha
The University of Illinois' team led by Sanjiv Sinha, an assistat professor of mechanical science and engineering, includes fellow MechSE professors Nicholas Fang and Placid Ferreira, David Cahill and John Rogers, materials science and engineering, and Xiuling Li, electrical and computer engineering. The university will partner with Boston-based startup MC10, Inc. for developing this technology, and theEco-Technology Program Office of Intel Corporation will provide industry guidance on waste heat recovery requirements.

Sinha’s grant will fund the development of a novel thermoelectric waste heat harvesting device based on large area arrays of 1-D concentric silicon nanotubes which can be inexpensively printed as stacked thermoelectric junctions. This thermoelectric technology holds promise for providing low cost harvesting of energy now lost in the form of waste heat in settings ranging from electricity generation to automobiles to massive data centers. Low quality waste heat constitutes a 2 TW untapped source of energy in the U.S. but is technically challenging to harvest as useful energy. High coefficient of performance thermoelectric conversion such as what the team seeks to achieve, can potentially harness approximately 4-5% of this waste heat and add 23% to the current US electricity production at zero additional carbon or noise emission.

ARPA-E was created to support high risk, high reward energy research that can provide transformative new solutions for climate change and energy security. ARPA-E received a total of $400 million in Recovery Act funding. This first round of funding will dispense over $151 million to projects which span many areas of the energy sector, including energy storage, biofuels, carbon capture, renewable power, building efficiency and vehicles.

The first ARPA-E solicitation was highly competitive. The agency received over 3,600 concept papers; 300 full applications were requested and ultimately only 37 projects were awarded.

Contact: Sanjiv Sinha, Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, 217/244-1891.

Linda W. Conway, technical journal coordinator, Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, 217/244-0379.

If you have any questions about the College of Engineering, or other story ideas, contact Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office, 217/244-7716, editor.