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Feasibility analysis and proof of concept for thermoelectric energy harvesting in mobile computers

Denker, R.
Muhtaroglu, A.
Thermoelectric (TE) energy harvesting in compact microelectronic systems necessitates detailed upfront analysis to ensure unacceptable performance degradation is avoided. TE integration into a notebook computer is empirically investigated in this work for energy harvesting. A detailed finite element model was constructed first for thermal simulations. The model outputs were then correlated with the thermal validation results of the selected system. In parallel, a commercial TE micro-module was empirically characterized to quantify maximum power generation opportunity from the combined system and component data set. Next, suitable "warm spots" were identified within the mobile computer model to extract TE power with minimum or no notable impact to system performance, as measured by simulated thermal changes in the system. The prediction was validated by integrating a TE micro-module to the mobile system under test. Measured TE power generation density in the vicinity of the heat pipe was 1.26 mW/cm(3) using high CPU load. The generated power scales down with lower CPU activity, and will scale up in proportion to the utilized opportunistic space within the system. The technical feasibility of TE energy harvesting in mobile computers has hence been experimentally proven for the first time. (C) 2013 American Institute of Physics. [http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4794751]