Thermoelectric generators are the solid state devices that convert heat into electricity with the help of temperature difference. These generators do not have any moving parts and are fully silent unlike the traditional heat engines. Thermoelectric generators have been used consistently for more than 30 years with no maintenance operation in space analysis such as in the voyager missions of NASA. NASA in collaboration with the Department of Energy has been developing a new power system that could be used in various space missions. The new radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which is called a Multi-Mission RTG (MMRTG), is being designed for operating in various planetary bodies such as Mars, as well as in vacuum space. Thus, with further technology advancements, thermoelectric generators are expected to see rise in demand in the long run.
However, in large applications, thermoelectric generators have less efficiency than the traditional heat engines, which may hamper the market growth potential. Currently, they are highly preferred in small applications due to their cost effective, simple, compact as well as scalable nature. Thermoelectric phenomenon, on which these generators work, is extensively used for heating as well as cooling applications too. In recent years thermoelectric generators have also been used in various new applications of energy generation by thermoelectric harvesting. The new applications are varied which include industrial and terrestrial applications.
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Thermoelectric systems can be operated with small heat sources and less temperature difference and can also be mass produced for automotive waste heat recovery or electricity and heat co-generation in homes and businesses. Among all the application areas, automotive is considered to be the high potential segment for thermoelectric generators market due to steadily increasing number of automobiles, globally.
According to International Organization of Motor Vehicles Manufacturers (OICA) 2015, there is 2.8% increase in the total production of vehicles from 2013 to 2014. The car manufacturing companies, such as Volkswagen, Ford, BMW and Volvo in collaboration with NASA are developing thermoelectric waste heat recovery systems, for fuel economy purposes. Likewise, these generators (with a temperature differentials)if used for powering wireless sensors would prevent battery lifetime and reliability issues.
Such developments in the thermoelectric generators and their applications increase the adoption trends among the end users. In consumer applications, the thermoelectric generators provide various benefits such as energy saving while cooking with the use of thermo-power cooking sensors, and in powering of consumer electronic devices. These generators are even used in body sensing with sensory wristbands, athletic apparel that check the heart rate and body temperature. They can be even miniaturized to gather body heat to power a wristwatch.
Asia Pacific is considered to be fastest growing segment in the adoption of thermoelectric generators market. According to OICA Vehicle Production Statistics 2015, 3.5% of increase in the vehicles production had occurred from the year 2013 to 2014in Asia Pacific as compared to other regions. Increased industrialization in this region is also expected to increase the demand for thermoelectric generators in the market.
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There are many significant product launches and acquisitions carried out by the companies in order to increase their competitiveness in the thermoelectric generators market. For instance, in April 2014, Gentherm, Inc. acquired Global Thermoelectric Inc. (GTE) which manufactured and developed industrial thermoelectric generator systems as well as remote power generation.
In March 2014, Gentherm, Inc. announced the launch of a new thermal conditioning system as well as climate control system for beds and home furniture. Also, in December, 2014 TECTEG MFR , the other thermoelectric generator manufacturer, signed an agreement with TKB Industrial, for developing a maximum power tracking and smart charge controller for thermoelectric generator battery system in order to get better power performance. The major players in the market are Gentherm, Inc., II-VI Incorporated, Ferrotec Corporation, Laird Plc, TECTEG MFR and Komatsu Limited.