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LTCC-based thick-film thermoelectric energy harvester
Keywords: LTCC, harvester, thick-film
Modern electronics are smaller and need less power than they used to in the past. Some sources of alternative energy, which were regarded as inefficient several years ago (e.g. thermoelectric materials based on conductors), may find application to supply electronic microsystems today. The aim of the study was to develop technology of miniature thermoelectric generators fabrication. To miniaturize the structures and to increase the output parameters (generated voltage, electrical power) they were designed as multilayer systems. It allows to reduce size of the system and to increase the number of thermocouples integrated inside the structure. Also protects buried thermocouples against exposure to harmful external factors (e.g. moisture, oxidation, mechanical exposures). As substrate LTCC (Low Temperature Co- fired Ceramic) was used. For the thermocouples fabrication thick-film pastes based on silver and nickel were selected. Ag/Ni thermocouple has nearly three times higher Seebeck coefficient and 30% lower electrical resistance than the combination of Ag/PdAg used in previous works of the author. In the previous works nickel-based paste wasn’t used because it isn’t compatible with LTCC technology. The paper presents the results of research that provided to optimize the co-firing process of the LTCC/Ni set. When appropriate process parameters were selected LTCC didn’t delaminate nor deform. The Ni-based paste didn’t degenerate and characterized by good electrical and thermoelectrical parameters after co-firing process. A multi-layer thick-film thermoelectric generator based on LTCC and Ag, Ni pastes was fabricated. It consisted of several layers. 30 Ag/Ni thermocouples were precisely screen-printed on each one. Thermocouples’ arms have 15 mm in length and about 130 μm in width. Interlayer connections (via-holes filled with conductive paste) provided the electrical contact between the layers. The resulting harvester consisted of over half thousand of miniature thermocouples buried in LTCC. The planar dimensions of the structures were 17x17 mm2, thickness – about 3 mm. The thermoelectric performance of the system were determined. When temperature difference along the structure were about 50°C the electrical voltage of about 0,5 V was generated.
Piotr Markowski,
Wrocław University of Technology
Wrocław, Dolnośląskie

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