During the first project period, the consortium has updated its technological development strategy, based on the updated information on the user needs and market opportunities. To better guide the project’s developments in materials, manufacturing and harvester designs, the consortium has performed first life-cycle analysis and life-cycle cost analysis on the benchmark smart-materials and energy harvesters. These generated useful information on the key factors to be taken into account as well as further opportunities for the project to improve its design and development works relating to the PE and TE materials and energy harvesters being developed.
The focus of this period is also on the upscaling of material synthesis facilities with a view to upscaling the existing lab. processes in synthesis of PE and TE materials proposed. Using the facilities upgraded initially, the 1st batch of lead-free piezo-electric materials (BCZT) has been produced through the Hydrothermal synthesis, Silicide and Hf-Free Half Heusler thermoelectrical materials through High Energy Ball Milling, and CVD coating of Magnesium silicide (MgSi) on Carbon nanotube (CNT) thermoelectric nanofibers (flexible thermoelectric materials). These have been subjected to first testing and characterisation, forming a basis for the next-stage improvement of those materials for energy harvesting applications.
Further significant development is the machine design for mass production of PE and TE parts and modules through electrical-field-activated sintering and module assembly, targeting short processing time, material nano-structure preservation, automated production and lower manufacturing cost. The 1st sintering trails on the newly produced powder have also been conducted. To assist in the part manufacturing and assembly, trials on the treatments of thermoelectric elements to improve its efficiency (ZT value) through high ion-current-density magnetron sputtering, treatments of these elements by nanocomposite and PVD CrSi/CrSi(O) coatings for easier assembly, have also been conducted.
To demonstrate the applications of smart materials and structures, three kinds of energy harvesters are being developed, namely: Nonlinear structure piezoelectric energy harvesters, Smart hybrid solar panels, and Thermoelectric energy harvesters for hybrid automobiles. During the 1st project period, design of three energy harvesters has been completed, preliminary prototypes have been built, initial tests, characterisations and validations carried out. The design optimisation and prototype enhancements are being undertaken.
At the same time, the strategy of design for recycling for developing energy harvesters has been developed, and the strategy for recycling thermo-electrical materials has also been developed. A method for recycling End-of-Life TE parts to powder has been tried and the processing parameters are being optimised.