Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP7

ThetaGen Result In Brief

Project ID: 255853
Funded under: FP7-JTI
Country: France

Waste heat powers helicopter engine parts

EU researchers investigated the possibility of harnessing the wasted heat around helicopter engines to power the electric devices controlling the engines.
Waste heat powers helicopter engine parts
Capturing the heat from the engine exhaust and turning it into electricity has become a hot prospect nowadays. Conversion of a temperature difference into electricity between two materials is the principal phenomenon underlying thermoelectric energy generation.

Until now, thermoelectric energy has seen very limited market activity – mainly related to toys and consumer electronics. Within THETAGEN (Thermoelectric generator for engine control system), researchers sought to expand the number of applications exploiting thermoelectric phenomena, focusing on aircraft systems.

A lot of heat generated by aircraft is currently wasted around the engine and coolers. Aircraft applications exploiting thermoelectricity are numerous, but researchers looked at how to collect enough thermal energy from the turboshaft and convert it into electricity to power the engine control unit. That way, the engine control unit will be autonomous – i.e. independent from the aircraft's electric power system.

The main advantage of a thermoelectric generator is that it provides failure recovery if the main electric system fails. Unlike other generators, they also do not decrease engine performance.

Although THETAGEN brought together aircraft manufacturers and research institutes, it failed to design a generator demonstrator. This is mainly because thermoelectric generators cannot be adapted to the engine environment. In future turboshafts, several evolutions in design have to be considered: anchoring devices on the combustion chamber or the compressors, cooling the fuel circuit or the fuel tank and improving the oil circuit. In addition, it is necessary to find practical heat and cooling sources.

THETAGEN was the first project that attempted to exploit thermoelectric phenomena in helicopters. Although it failed to achieve its aims, it pinpointed several technical points that design engineers need to consider for future products.

Related information

Keywords

Waste heat, helicopter, thermoelectric, THETAGEN, generator, engine control
Record Number: 182866 / Last updated on: 2016-06-06
Domain: Energy