For low power applications, thermoelectric generators (TEGs) can capture energy from environmental temperature gradients.   For example, sub-surface soil and pavements have temperatures that are relatively constant over a 24 hour period, even though surface temperatures may vary widely.   This flow of thermal energy from surface to subsurface, through a TEG, can be used to power sensors and actuators, either directly, or accumulated on a capacitor or rechargeable cell for intermittent duty.

The SunpowerTM line of thermoelectrically powered pavement markers was developed as a demonstration project to highlight the potential of TEGs for commercial applications.  This led to the development of thermoelectrically powered strobes for speed humps which are presently in beta test around the country.

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Heat exchange is an integral part of many power generation facilities and industrial plants.   By deploying thermoelectric structures within the walls of heat exchangers, electric generation can occur as a byproduct of heat exchange.

In the animation to the left, two possibilities for "bonus" electric generation are illustrated.   Other candidate deployments include tailpipes, heat discharge pipes, and, (far left) smokestacks.   In fact, the energy in virtually any heat flow can be captured and converted to electrical energy.