Navy Contracts Mainstream Engineering to Develop Thermoelectric Materials for Power Recovery in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

ROCKLEDGE, FL – January 28, 2011 – Mainstream Engineering Corporation, leading research, and development company specializing in advanced thermal control and energy conversion, has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Navy to develop high-performance nanoscale thermoelectric generators for use in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

For over a century, researchers have worked on improving thermoelectric (TE) waste heat recovery, which is the direct conversion of heat to electricity. However, most compositional-based materials research has not produced TEs with a figure of merit (zT) (the fundamental measure of TE performance) greater than unity.

New methods of enhancing TE efficiency are needed and have been realized through structural alteration of TE materials. Mainstream is developing a novel approach to significantly enhance zT beyond the current state of the art for high-efficiency TE generators. Mainstream will use its low-cost, innovative approach to produce conformable, lightweight, and economically viable devices that can generate power from waste heat.

In Phase I, Mainstream will test the performance of the TE devices at operating temperatures of 135°F and 300°F. During Phase II, the research will be expanded to include testing at 400°F in a laboratory bench test and complete any needed redesigns. To prepare for the transition to military and commercial platforms, Mainstream will also concurrently develop aircraft interfaces and system-level integration.