A 195-year-old discovery is behind a new system that will save vehicles hundreds of litres of fuel and reduce their carbon emissions by as much as 1,000 tonnes per year.
Working with automotive manufacturer Scania, researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology have been testing semi trucks equipped with a system that converts exhaust heat into power — through a process called thermoelectric generation (TEG). The voltage produced by the system can power the truck and reduce the strain on the engine, explains researcher Arash Risseh.
The TEG system operates on the principle of the thermoelectric effect, by which differences in temperature are converted into voltage — a phenomenon discovered in 1821 by German physicist Thomas Johann Seebeck, and often referred to as the “Seebeck effect”.
“Most fuel energy is not used to drive a truck forward,” Risseh says. “Some 30 percent of this unused energy is lost as heat from the exhaust pipes.”