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VII. Research & Development

When market trends or business objectives require product specifications that are not within our current manufacturing limits, our R&D team works to extend those limits. Examples of market trends include new levels of miniaturization, higher temperature solder processes, greater thermal-cycling tolerance, rapid prototyping, higher watt density, low-profile multi-stage modules and reduced cost with minimal performance loss. The main business objective currently driving our R&D is a push to enter the power generation market.

Our Product and Process R&D and Materials R&D groups work closely together to accomplish projects that lead to the new manufacturing capabilities required.

 

Materials R&D


Development of established thermoelectric materials is important for both cooling (bismuth telluride alloys) and power generation (lead telluride alloys).

We continually seek to improve the performance of bismuth telluride alloys beyond the already unsurpassed performance of our MAM+ materials. In addition, we are working to reduce the cost of our high-performance cooling materials.

For lead telluride alloys, we have recently learned to make materials with state-of-the-art performance, and we are now working to produce these alloys in larger batch sizes and to develop economical metal-contact technology.

The goal of research into new cooling materials is to achieve performance (figure of merit) significantly better than what is possible with current bismuth telluride alloys. The leading concepts are based on nanostructured bismuth telluride alloys. One approach is to combine, for example, Bi2Te3 and Sb2Te3in a bulk material with inhomogeneity at the ≤ 100 nm scale. Bi2Te3 nanowire arrays are another approach that we have pursued in conjunction with research partners.

For power generation materials, research goals center on the development of state-of-the-art processing capabilities from raw materials to finished elements for materials to replace lead telluride alloys. These materials include skutterudites (based on CoSb3), Mg2Si-Mg2Sn alloys and undisclosed proprietary materials.

 

Product and Process R&D


This group develops new manufacturing and assembly processes that enable new products, as well as prototype and pilot production products. Current emphases include:

  • Compact Bi2Te3 alloy-based generators for energy harvesting
  • High-temperature module manufacturing capability for waste heat recovery
  • Novel substrates to reduce mechanical stress
  • Novel substrate processes to reduce prototyping lead time
  • Reduced electrical contact resistance for high-watt density modules


Contract R&D


Marlow augments its internally funded R&D with government and business sponsored projects that align with our technology strategy.

Government agencies and prime contractors are turning to Marlow Industries’ R&D team to develop new power generation technology. Current and prospective projects cover energy harvesting, small-scale fuel-powered generation, and waste-heat recovery for commercial and military vehicles. The projects will make viable, new applications of thermoelectrics.