Recent national energy usage studies by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2015 [1] show that there is approximately 59 Quads (1015 Btu’s) of waste thermal energy throughout various industrial, residential, power generation, and transportation sectors of the U.S. economy. Thermoelectric energy recovery is one important technology for recovering this waste thermal energy in high-temperature industrial, transportation and military energy systems. Thermoelectric generator (TEG) systems in these applications require high performance hot-side and cold-side heat exchangers to provide the critical temperature differential and transfer the required thermal energy. High performance hot-side heat exchangers in these systems are often metal-based due to requirements for high-temperature operation, strength at temperature, corrosion resistance, and chemical stability. However, the generally selected metal-based hot-side heat exchangers (i.e., Inconels, Stainless Steels) suffer from low thermal conductivity, high thermal expansion, and high density, which degrades their thermal performance, leads to high thermal-expansion-driven stresses, and creates relatively high mass/high volume (i.e., low power density) TEG systems that are then difficult to fabricate and integrate into viable energy recovery systems. This paper describes the design and testing of a new, high-temperature minichannel graphite heat exchanger designed for operation up to 500°C that is a critical element of a high-power-density TEG power system for aircraft energy recovery. This high-performance graphite heat exchanger represents a new state-of-the-art standard in high-temperature heat exchangers for TEG systems, which provides higher thermal transport, less thermal expansion at operation, lower system level stresses on TE components, and a lighter weight TEG system. This new heat exchanger creates a new design paradigm in TEG system design for terrestrial energy recovery and potential NASA technology infusion into terrestrial energy system applications. This paper will present and discuss the key heat transfer, pressure drop, pumping power analyses and design tradeoffs that created this unique design. Heat transfer and pressure drop modeling was performed with both empirical models based on known heat transfer and friction factor correlations and COMSOL thermal/fluid dynamic modeling of the graphite heat exchanger structure. We will also discuss resulting thermal transport and heat fluxes predicted at the TEG interface level. Heat exchanger performance testing was performed under simulated operating conditions and correlation with test data at the anticipated operating temperature conditions will be presented and discussed.

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