HKMU professor develops enhanced thermoelectric generators for sustainable waste heat recovery

School of Science and Technology HKMU professor develops enhanced thermoelectric generators for sustainable waste heat recovery

HKMU professor develops enhanced thermoelectric generators for sustainable waste heat recovery

Date: 24 October 2023

Prof. Roy Vellaisamy, newly appointed Chair Professor of Intelligent Systems at Hong Kong Metropolitan University’s (HKMU) School of Science and Technology (S&T), has pioneered an enhanced design for thermoelectric generators (TEGs), which can durably and efficiently convert industrial waste heat into usable electricity. The enhanced design may directly increase the efficiency of heat-to-electricity conversion, providing a good demonstration of the application of research to resolve real-world problems.

TEGs have immense potential for recovering industrial waste heat, but existing versions face limitations because of their intrinsically brittle components and inefficient electricity conversion. Drawing on his expertise in chemical physics and materials engineering, Prof. Vellaisamy and his team developed an innovative solution by adopting a 3D microlattice structure made from partially carbonised materials. “This novel architecture results in greater mechanical durability, as well as higher heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency,” he explained. The details of this breakthrough TEG enhancement were published in the journal Nature Communications.

The enhanced efficiency and robustness of this redesigned microlattice TEGs make them uniquely suited for efficient waste heat harvesting in industrial settings, thus greatly improving energy sustainability. Prof. Vellaisamy’s practical innovation showcases how applied research can contribute to solve real-world problems, which is aligned with the University’s drive to have an important societal impact through innovations.

Beyond material engineering, Prof. Vellaisamy’s research interest lies in Intelligent Systems. Currently, he is collaborating with S&T’s machine-learning team on diagnostic data analytics. “Materials engineering and intelligent systems intersect with various fields,” he explains. “At the molecular level, we engineer sensors, which produce a lot of data. Colleagues with a machine-learning background help analyse the data using AI, and the results are fed back to our systems to make them intelligent.”

Prof. Vellaisamy also champions leveraging cross-disciplinary synergies for maximum societal benefit. Although his lab at the University is still being set up, he is already leading an interdisciplinary cardiovascular disease diagnosis project with the School of Nursing and Health Studies and the School of Arts and Social Sciences. “To deliver meaningful real-world influence quickly, I believe that collaboration will facilitate higher proficiency in research to have a fast, meaningful impact,” he says. “In parallel, I am collaborating with the School of Nursing and Health Studies to recruit participants to test the device and gather data, and colleagues in the School of Arts and Social Sciences to design surveys to gauge end-users’ perspectives for refinement.”

Looking forward, as head of S&T’s molecular electronics group, Prof. Vellaisamy will continue to contribute to the University’s research areas and create more cross-departmental synergies to have a greater social impact through meaningful research.

Jonathan Chiu
Marketing Director
3DP Technology Limited

Jonathan handles all external affairs include business development, patents write up and public relations. He is frequently interviewed by media and is considered a pioneer in 3D printing products.

Krutz Cheuk
Biomedical Engineer
Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital

After graduating from OUHK, Krutz obtained an M.Sc. in Engineering Management from CityU. He is now completing his second master degree, M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering, at CUHK. Krutz has a wide range of working experience. He has been with Siemens, VTech, and PCCW.

Hugo Leung
Software and Hardware Engineer
Innovation Team Company Limited

Hugo Leung Wai-yin, who graduated from his four-year programme in 2015, won the Best Paper Award for his ‘intelligent pill-dispenser’ design at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering’s International Conference on Consumer Electronics – China 2015.

The pill-dispenser alerts patients via sound and LED flashes to pre-set dosage and time intervals. Unlike units currently on the market, Hugo’s design connects to any mobile phone globally. In explaining how it works, he said: ‘There are three layers in the portable pillbox. The lowest level is a controller with various devices which can be connected to mobile phones in remote locations. Patients are alerted by a sound alarm and flashes. Should they fail to follow their prescribed regime, data can be sent via SMS to relatives and friends for follow up.’ The pill-dispenser has four medicine slots, plus a back-up with a LED alert, topped by a 500ml water bottle. It took Hugo three months of research and coding to complete his design, but he feels it was worth all his time and effort.

Hugo’s public examination results were disappointing and he was at a loss about his future before enrolling at the OUHK, which he now realizes was a major turning point in his life. He is grateful for the OUHK’s learning environment, its industry links and the positive guidance and encouragement from his teachers. The University is now exploring the commercial potential of his design with a pharmaceutical company. He hopes that this will benefit the elderly and chronically ill, as well as the society at large.

Soon after completing his studies, Hugo joined an automation technology company as an assistant engineer. He is responsible for the design and development of automation devices. The target is to minimize human labor and increase the quality of products. He is developing products which are used in various sections, including healthcare, manufacturing and consumer electronics.

Course Code Title Credits
  COMP S321F Advanced Database and Data Warehousing 5
  COMP S333F Advanced Programming and AI Algorithms 5
  COMP S351F Software Project Management 5
  COMP S362F Concurrent and Network Programming 5
  COMP S363F Distributed Systems and Parallel Computing 5
  COMP S382F Data Mining and Analytics 5
  COMP S390F Creative Programming for Games 5
  COMP S492F Machine Learning 5
  ELEC S305F Computer Networking 5
  ELEC S348F IOT Security 5
  ELEC S371F Digital Forensics 5
  ELEC S431F Blockchain Technologies 5
  ELEC S425F Computer and Network Security 5
 Course CodeTitleCredits
 ELEC S201FBasic Electronics5
 IT S290FHuman Computer Interaction & User Experience Design5
 STAT S251FStatistical Data Analysis5
 Course CodeTitleCredits
 COMPS333FAdvanced Programming and AI Algorithms5
 COMPS362FConcurrent and Network Programming5
 COMPS363FDistributed Systems and Parallel Computing5
 COMPS380FWeb Applications: Design and Development5
 COMPS381FServer-side Technologies and Cloud Computing5
 COMPS382FData Mining and Analytics5
 COMPS390FCreative Programming for Games5
 COMPS413FApplication Design and Development for Mobile Devices5
 COMPS492FMachine Learning5
 ELECS305FComputer Networking5
 ELECS363FAdvanced Computer Design5
 ELECS425FComputer and Network Security5