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Testing Thermoelectric Technology on a M1 Abrams Tank

The thermoelectric effect uses a difference in temperature to create an electric current. This effectively means that any system which produces excess heat can use a thermoelectric device to convert that heat into electricity. Those systems may include engine exhausts (such as car exhausts), factory equipment, or anything else that vents heat.

The Army Research Laboratory (ARL), in its quest to find more energy efficient technologies, has applied thermoelectric devices to a M1 Abrams tank. The findings could be transferred to all technology sectors, not just for the army.

Combined heat and power systems already exist which work in a similar way, converting excess heat to electricity, however they only really work for large, stationary systems, such as power plants. They offer little help for using the heat produced in small, mobile units, such as cars, aircraft, and ships.

Thermoelectric systems however can be easily scaled down at a relatively low cost to make them much more portable; this is due to the fact that the effect works on an atomic level between adjacent materials.

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The ARL has stated that thermoelectricity is perfect for the military “because it has no moving parts, low weight, modularity, covert and silent, high power density, low amortized cost and long service life with no required maintenance.”

GM has been developing its own thermoelectric system to add to car exhausts and is helping out in the Abrams project to try and further its research. Also involved are General Dynamics, Creare Inc., and Research Triangle Institute.

Currently a 80 watt prototype system has been fitted to the tanks exhaust, however that is now in the process of being scaled up to a full size unit.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com


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