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Marlow Industries Continues Development of Thermoelectric Technology to Increase Automobile Fuel Efficiency

Marlow Industries, Inc., a subsidiary of II-VI Incorporated (Nasdaq: IIVI), continues to advance green technologies by designing and manufacturing thermoelectric generator modules intended to improve automobile fuel efficiency by 5%, and thereby drive down fuel expense by 5% per mile.

In a typical automobile, over 70% of the fuel’s energy content escapes in the form of waste heat and other losses. The most concentrated portion of this waste heat exits via the exhaust system, where temperatures can reach 500-600°C.  Marlow’s thermoelectric technology can convert the wasted thermal energy into useful electrical energy.  This recovered energy can be used to minimize electrical loads on the engine by partial replacement of the vehicle’s alternator, making a 5% boost in overall energy efficiency feasible.

This work is performed in collaboration with General Motors Global Research and Development, which heads a team of industry-leading companies, laboratories, and universities across the US and is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Vehicle Technology Program.  

Marlow’s role on the team is to provide the thermoelectric power generation modules that will contain internally produced skutterudite thermoelectric materials. Skutterudite thermoelectric alloys are among the most preferred materials in waste heat recovery prototype systems due to their solid mechanical properties, favorable ZT values found for both n-type and p-type materials, and the cost-effectiveness of their main elemental constituents.  Marlow brings to this effort 15 years of familiarity with skutterudite alloys, 40 years of experience designing and manufacturing thermoelectric modules, and a decade of power generation module production.  

In boosting automobile energy efficiency, this technology can play a role in helping auto industry systems meet new government-mandated fuel efficiency standards in the US and in Europe. “If successful,” states Marlow Senior Manager Jeff Sharp, “this technology could become the largest application for thermoelectric modules to date.”

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