Evaluation of additively manufactured stacks for thermo-acoustic devices



The thermo-acoustic effect provides a means to convert acoustic energy to heat and vice versa without the need for moving parts. This is especially useful to construct mechanically-simple and robust energy harvesting devices, although there are limitations to the power-to-volume ratio achievable. The mechanical and thermal properties as well as geometry of the porous stack that forms a set of acoustic waveguides in thermo-acoustic devices are key to its performance. In this study, we evaluate various additively manufactured polymer stacks against more conventional ceramic stacks using a benchtop thermos-acoustic refrigerator rig that uses air at ambient pressure as its working fluid. Influence of stack parameters such as material, length, location, porosity and pore geometry are examined using experiments and correlated to simulations using DeltaEC, a software tool based on Rott’s linear approximation. Structure-performance relationships are established by extracting scaling laws for power-to-volume ratio and frequency-thermal gradient dependencies. It is found that additively manufactured stacks can deliver performance comparable to ceramic stacks while being more affordable and customizable for thermo-acoustic transduction applications.