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Title:
COMBINED THERMAL HEATER COOLER SENSOR TAP AND VALVE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2022/144687
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A fluid supply system comprising: a tap having an inlet and an outlet; a heat transfer plate; a fluid source having an outlet; a fluid conduit in fluid communication with the tap inlet and the fluid source outlet, and in thermal communication with the heat transfer plate; a thermoelectric module in thermal communication with the heat transfer plate; a controller; a source of electrical power; a user interface; and a valve for selectively allowing fluid to flow through the fluid conduit; wherein: when the controller receives an request from the user interface for the tap to dispense fluid, the controller causes the valve to allow fluid to flow through the fluid conduit.

Inventors:
WYLLIE NICHOLAS (GB)
Application Number:
PCT/IB2021/062084
Publication Date:
July 07, 2022
Filing Date:
December 21, 2021
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
WYLLIE NICHOLAS (GB)
International Classes:
F24D17/00; E03C1/00; E03C1/05; F16K5/00; F24D17/02; F24D19/10; F24H1/12; F24H9/20
Domestic Patent References:
WO2014189389A12014-11-27
Foreign References:
DE102017129342A12019-06-13
US20160333561A12016-11-17
US20110155932A12011-06-30
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ROBERTSON, Christopher (GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A fluid supply system comprising: a tap or outlet valve having an inlet and an outlet; a heat transfer plate or block; a fluid source having an outlet; a fluid conduit in fluid communication with the inlet of the tap or outlet valve and the fluid source outlet, and in thermal communication with the heat transfer plate or block; a thermoelectric module in thermal communication with the heat transfer plate or block; a controller; a source of electrical power; a user interface; and a flow valve for selectively allowing fluid to flow through the fluid conduit; wherein: when the controller receives a request from the user interface for the tap or outlet valve to dispense fluid, the controller causes the flow valve to allow fluid to flow through the fluid conduit; wherein furthermore: when the controller receives a request for an increase in the temperature of the fluid, the controller causes the source of electrical power to apply a voltage across the thermoelectric module such that it transfers heat to the heat transfer plate or block; and when the controller receives a request for a decrease in the temperature of the fluid, the controller causes the source of electrical power to apply a voltage across the thermoelectric module such that it transfers heat from the heat transfer plate or block.

2. A fluid supply system as in claim 1, further comprising a temperature sensor in the fluid flow path between the heat transfer plate or block and the outlet of the tap or outlet valve, and wherein a request for an increase in the temperature of the fluid is the result of a comparison between the temperature reading of the temperature sensor with a fluid temperature setting, wherein it is determined that the temperature reading of the temperature sensor is lower than the fluid temperature setting.

3. A fluid supply system as in claim 2, wherein a request for a decrease in the temperature of the fluid is the result of a comparison between the temperature reading of the temperature sensor with the fluid temperature setting, wherein it is determined that the temperature reading of the temperature sensor is higher than the fluid temperature setting.

4. A fluid supply system as in claim 2 or claim 3, wherein the fluid temperature setting is predetermined and fixed.

5. A fluid supply system as in claim 2 or claim 3, wherein the fluid temperature setting is set by the user interface.

6. A fluid supply system as in any preceding claim, wherein the portion of the fluid conduit which is in thermal communication with the heat transfer plate or block follows a meandering path.

7. A fluid supply system as in any preceding claim, wherein a plurality of taps or outlet valves are selectively connectable at their respective inlets to the fluid conduit.

8. A fluid supply system as in any preceding claim, wherein the user interface comprises a plurality of non-contact control sensors.

9. A fluid supply system as in claim 8 wherein the plurality of non-contact control sensors include at least one of: a proximity sensor; a motion sensor; a heat sensor; a sound sensor.

10. A fluid supply system as in any preceding claim, wherein at least a portion of the fluid conduit comprises a passage through the heat transfer plate or block.

11. A fluid supply system as in any preceding claim, wherein an electrical energy storage system is connected to at least one of the thermoelectric modules so as to receive and store electrical energy generated by the at least one thermoelectric module.

12. A fluid supply system comprising: a tap or outlet valve with an inlet and an outlet; a user interface comprising a plurality of non-contact control sensors; and a controller; wherein: the user interface is capable of providing at least two distinct control signals to the controller based on the readings of the non-contact control sensors.

13. A fluid supply system according to claim 12, further comprising: a fluid heating and cooling system; a fluid source having an outlet; a fluid conduit in fluid communication with the tap inlet and the fluid source outlet, and in thermal communication with the heating and cooling system; and a flow valve for controllably allowing fluid to pass through the fluid conduit; wherein: one of the distinct control signals causes the flow valve to allow fluid to pass through the fluid conduit; a second of the distinct control signals causes the heating and cooling system to adjust the temperature of the fluid flowing through the fluid conduit.

14. A fluid supply system according to claim 13 wherein the user interface is capable of providing a control signal to the controller based on the readings of the non-contact control sensors, which causes the flow valve to adjust the rate of flow of the fluid through the fluid conduit.

Description:
Combined Thermal Heater Cooler Sensor Tap and Valve

Field of the Invention

[001] The invention relates to a tap or valve for the supply of hot and cold water or other fluids. In particular, the invention relates to a tap or valve with thermoelectric heating elements, and sensors for controlling flow and/ or temperature.

Background of the Invention

[002] Existing installations for the provision of hot and cold water to structures such as buildings incorporate a centralised boiler, pumps, tanks, and cylinders, which circulate hot and cold water through a two pipe system to bathrooms, cloakrooms, kitchens, etc. Among the limitations of such systems is that heated water can cool in tanks and pipes, and be slow in reaching taps, wasting energy and water.

[003] Where hot water is desired at a location with only the provision of cold water, a small surface boiler can be retrofitted to provide hot water. These systems, however, have limited capacity and are often unattractive.

[004] It is desirable to provide a fluid heating and cooling system which heats and cools the fluid at the point of use, to remove the need for a central boiler, tanks, and cylinders and thus enabling a single water feed to be distributed to bathrooms, cloakrooms, kitchens, machinery, equipment etc.

[005] Such a system is desirable in part because it would reduce the cost of materials and the time needed for installation. It is further desirable because it would simplify maintenance because of the reduction in equipment and the simpler pipework. It is still further desirable because a cool water distribution system with less equipment and fewer pipes will reduce the occurrence of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases. [006] A direct water distribution system with heater cooler thermal taps would provide hot and cold water as required, for heating, cooling, drinking, washing, sanitation, equipment, etc.

[007] Thermoelectric modules and assemblies are used as heat pumps to provide cooling or heating in domestic, commercial and industrial applications.

[008] The use of thermoelectric modules and assemblies to transfer heat by the Peltier method (using thermoelectric coolers or TECs), and generate power by the Seebeck method (using thermoelectric generators or TEGs), are well known and used in many applications. Thermoelectric modules and assemblies are incorporated into systems to transfer heat and generate/ reclaim power.

[009] Applying a current to a thermoelectric device creates a heat flux (the Peltier effect), drawing heat from one side and radiating heat on the other side. Electrical energy is converted into heat energy with the semi-conductor components of the thermoelectric device acting as resistors.

[010] Thermoelectric modules and assemblies generally comprise: thermoelectric semi-conductors; thermally conducting plates; heat sinks; and sometimes fans. A typical thermoelectric module arrangement comprises semi-conductors placed between thermally conductive plates in an assembly with heat sinks mounted onto the thermoelectric elements, optionally with fans to increase the flow of fluids (e.g. air, water, etc.) across the heat sinks.

[011] Thermoelectric modules can operate individually, can be grouped together in stacks, or can form part of a system. Performance and operation varies according to a number of factors, such as the number of modules, the application and environment, variations in applied current (in terms of both magnitude and direction), and any temperature differential across the modules. This allows for considerable flexibility of operation. [012] Typically, a controllable power source connected to the terminals of a thermoelectric device will pass an electrical current through the semi-conductors, which are arranged electrically in series to transfer heat across the thermoelectric device, resulting in a hot side and a cold side. Reversing the polarity of the electric current changes the direction of the heat transfer and reverses the hot side and the cold side.

[013] The use of thermoelectric modules can provide an efficient means of heating and cooling in a heater cooler tap.

[014] The use of taps for personal hygiene, particularly but not exclusively in public places, has long been a cause for concern with respect to the spread of pathogens. Most conventional taps or faucets use a manual actuator to start the flow of water (or other fluids), and/ or to adjust the pressure of said flow, or the temperature of the fluid. Successive users of a manual actuator may deposit pathogens from their hands onto the actuators, and may collect previously deposited pathogens.

[015] One prior art solution to this problem is the use of non-contact actuators for the flow of fluid from a tap. Typically these include motion or proximity sensors, such as light sensors or heat sensors. When a tap sensor detects an object or a movement within sensor range, it actuates the fluid flow.

[016] Prior art systems using proximity or motion sensors for actuation are limited in their usefulness because they do not provide any degrees of freedom to their control by the user. Typically, the pressure and temperature of the dispensed fluid are fixed or predetermined, and cannot be changed at the point of use.

[017] It is desirable to provide a tap and valve system which provides a greater degree of control at the point of use, while maintaining the advantages of noncontact actuation. Summary of the Invention

[018] Aspects of the invention provide a combined thermal heater cooler tap and valve (a CTT).

[019] Other aspects of the invention provide a combined sensor tap and valve (a CST)

[020] Still other aspects of the invention provide a combined thermal heater cooler sensor tap and valve (a CTST).

[021] A CTT according to the invention provides temperature controlled water (or other fluids) to an individual tap, valve, sink, basin, shower, bidet, equipment, machinery, etc. The CTT incorporates thermoelectric modules to provide hot and/ or cold water for kitchen sinks, taps, bathrooms, basins, baths, showers, bidets, cloakrooms, machinery, equipment, etc., for domestic, commercial and industrial uses.

[022] An alternative CTT according to the invention provides temperature controlled water (or other fluids) to a plurality of taps and valves. For example, such a CTT could be used for a bathroom, or a plurality of bathrooms, with a centralised heating and cooling system feeding the plurality of taps and valves.

[023] An exemplary CTT according to the invention incorporates at least one thermoelectric module with at least one heat transfer plate, power supply circuitry, as well as a tap (preferably a mixer) with a flow valve, incorporating flow and/ or temperature sensors, a controller, and circuitry to connect the sensors, the controller, the thermoelectric module, and the flow valve. Optionally, insulation, power cabling, and at least one back up battery (e.g. for the flow valve) may be provided, housed in a suitable casing or casings.

[024] Taps/valves of the invention can be positioned in use on the surfaces of walls (or in recesses), in bathroom suites, shower tiling, worktops and equipment, or in other locations as with conventional taps. The heating and cooling system and the controller is preferably but not necessarily concealed.

[025] The CTT can be powered from the mains electrical supply with the necessary conversion equipment. This can be a hard wired connection, or plugged in.

[026] Each thermoelectric module comprises at least one Peltier/Seebeck semiconductor. In use, the modules are used to heat or cool the water (by means of heat transfer plates) according to predetermined parameters, or input signals from users. An embodiment of the invention may comprise an assembly of multiple thermoelectric modules. Each assembly incorporates a heat transfer plate in thermal contact with the thermoelectric modules, to transfer heat to, or extract heat from, the fluid passing across or through the heat transfer plate.

[027] In use, the controller causes a voltage to be applied by the power source across the thermoelectric modules when heating or cooling is required. The polarity of the voltage is selected depending on which of heating or cooling is required. The amplitude of the voltage may be selected, depending on whether a particular level of heating or cooling is required, based either on predetermined instructions or input received from the point of use. The amplitude of the voltage may be controlled in response to input from a temperature sensor in the tap, providing feedback on the current temperature of the output water.

[028] Preferably, a heat transfer plate of the invention can be arranged to maximise the efficiency of heat transfer or heat removal. For example, it may be designed to maximize the surface area in contact with the passing fluid. The heat transfer plate can be hollow, internally and/ or externally finned, fluted, circular or of other suitable shape. It may comprise inhibitors, or one or more tubes for the fluid to pass across or through, in thermal communication with the heat sinks of the thermoelectric modules. [029] The heat transfer plate could also be designed for fluid to pass through it in a meandering path, to maximize the contact time between the heat transfer plate and the fluid, and/ or maximise the surface area of contact between the heat transfer plate and the fluid.

[030] The number, size, design, and arrangement of thermoelectric modules, heat plates, heat sinks, and flow valves may be varied to suit the installation and requirements, whether for a kitchen tap, a bathroom basin tap, a bath, shower, bidet, or other application. For example, a boiler tap which provides water at or close to 100 degrees Celsius is fitted in some modern kitchens, and the application of the present invention to such a system may require additional thermoelectric modules in order to provide more rapid heating.

[031] In most domestic, commercial and industrial situations the fluid will be water. Nevertheless, this is not to be taken as limiting, and it should be understood that the CTT can be used with other fluids (liquids or gases).

[032] The supply of water would usually be pressurized (such as mains pressure), but if required a pump can be incorporated into the system. Alternatively, if the water pressure is too high, a limiter can be added into the system to reduce the water pressure.

[033] The CTT may include a suitable filter, for example for drinking water, the preparation of food, for hospitals, laboratories, factories and other installations that require controlled or clean fluid supplies.

[034] In problem areas with unclean and dirty water, and areas with excessively hard or soft water, or indeed when brine is being used, a suitable filter can be incorporated into the system to improve the water quality.

[035] When heated or cooled fluid is no longer required, the controller no longer powers the thermoelectric devices, and any residual heat or cold within the system will produce a current in the modules by the Seebeck effect, which can be collected in a batery, super capacitor or other power storage device, or serve to recharge the back-up battery (see below).

[036] A flow valve is incorporated within the tap assembly, to control the flow of fluid. In some embodiments this may mean simply starting the flow of fluid and stopping it. In other embodiments this may include varying the flow rate according to a predetermined control sequence or in response to user input signals. The valve can be a solenoid valve or other type of valve that can open and close, and/ or vary the flow rate.

[037] A back-up battery may be connected to the flow valve to provide fluid in the event of power interruption. This may only be provided for a main tap for drinking water in a kitchen, for example, to ensure the provision of at least one supply of water if power is lost. Where the water in the system is from a fresh source, all taps could provide drinking water, which may be possibly cooled, and a back up battery may feature on some or all of the taps.

[038] A timer for fluid flow can also be incorporated into the system to allow a timed delivery of fluid.

[039] Moving on to the CST aspect of the invention, a CST according to the invention provides a tap system having a plurality of non-contact sensors, such as motion and/ or proximity sensors, on or proximate each tap. The tap system may include taps for basins, baths, showers, bidets, and any other appliances which typically make use of taps and/ or valves.

[040] The CST can be powered from the mains electrical supply with the necessary conversion equipment. This can be a hard wired connection, or plugged in.

[041] In most domestic, commercial and industrial situations the fluid dispensed by the taps will be water. Nevertheless, this is not to be taken as limiting, and it should be understood that the CST can be used with other fluids (liquids or gases). [042] The CST may include a filter for drinking water, the preparation of food, etc. and for hospitals, laboratories, factories and other installations that require controlled/ clean fluid supplies.

[043] The plurality of sensors associated with a particular tap are in communication with a controller which controls said particular tap, indicating at least one of a request that fluid be dispensed, a temperature preference for the fluid, and/ or a pressure preference for the fluid. Each tap in a system may have its own controller, or a single controller may control multiple taps. Where multiple taps in a system are arranged closely together, they may share a ‘control panel’ of non-contact sensors.

[044] For example, when a user puts a hand under a water tap of a CST of the invention, one of the plurality of sensors causes a signal to be sent to the controller, to allow water to flow through a flow valve (typically, but not necessarily, a solenoid valve) and out of the tap. In some embodiments, sensors could react to the approach of a person/ animal/ vehicle to trigger water flow.

[045] The water could be provided at a fixed temperature, or pre-programmed at a desired target temperature, or other sensors of the plurality of sensors could be triggered (for example, by a suitably directed wave of the user’s hand) to signal to the controller to heat or cool the water as required. A temperature range could be set to avoid scalding, injury or damage to users or equipment.

[046] A single flow sensor could be provided in one location, for example above the tap, while temperature controlling sensors could be provided in different locations to control the temperature. For example, a ‘temperature up’ sensor could be provided to the left of the tap, and a ‘temperature down’ sensor could be provided to the right of the tap. Signs and/ or symbols could be used to guide the user to select the correct sensor. For example, the ‘temperature down’ sensor or an area close to it could be coloured blue, while the ‘temperature up’ sensor or an area close to it could be coloured red. [047] Alternatively, only two sensors could be provided. For example, a ‘hot water on’ sensor could be provided to the left, and a ‘hot water off sensor could be provided to the right. The positions of the sensors are given merely as examples and the skilled person will appreciate the large degree of freedom available when designing a particular interface according to this aspect of the invention.

[048] As another alternative, several sensors could be provided (perhaps in a strip, row or a column proximate the tap) to give a signal to provide hotter or colder water dependant on hand position. Such a sensor arrangement would enable water to be supplied at varied temperature according to a specific signal such as hand positioning.

[049] Sensors could also be positioned away from the tap and controller, perhaps on a shower having a walk-in sensor and a wall mounted (or recessed) flow rate and temperature setting 'pad' or array of sensors. Communication between an external sensor and the controller may be hard-wired or may be wireless, for example using a near field communication protocol such as Bluetooth (RTM).

[050] Input signals could be provided to the sensors and controllers by a remote pad or hand-held remote control (such as a smart device with a suitable app) for an individual tap/ valve or for all taps & valves in a room or a system.

[051] Flow rate can be fixed, adjusted or varied according to input signals from sensors. Sensors could be set to recognize different individuals and their preferred flow rate and temperature settings.

[052] Sensors can be infrared IR sensors, temperature sensors, pressure sensors, movement sensors, proximity sensors, accelerometers, light sensors, sonic or ultrasonic sensors or other sensors.

[053] Moving on to the third aspect of the invention, a CTST according to the invention combines some or all of the features of the first two aspects as described above. For example, a tap can be provided with a heating and cooling system comprising thermoelectric modules and a heat transfer plate, controlled by a controller in response to signals received from non-contact sensors at the tap’s user interface.

Statement of invention

[054] The invention provides a fluid supply system as defined in claim 1.

[055] The invention further provides a fluid supply system as defined in claim 10.

Brief Description of the Drawings

[056] The invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the following drawings.

[057] Figure 1 shows an example of a CTT with single thermoelectric module and a non-contact flow activation sensor.

[058] Figure 2 shows an example of a CTST incorporating two thermoelectric modules and two non-contact control sensors.

[059] Figure 3 shows an example of a CTST with multiple non-contact control sensors and a heat transfer plate.

[060] Figure 4 shows an example of a CTT system with multiple thermoelectric modules and multiple taps or fluid outlets.

[061] Figure 5 depicts an alternative configuration in which a single thermoelectric module heats one heat transfer plate and cools another.

[062] Figure 6 shows a multiple sensor strip for use with a CST or CTST.

Detailed Description

[063] Figure 1 depicts a CTT with a thermoelectric module 1 and single sensor 2. A hand placed below the tap 3 will trigger the sensor 2, which will send a signal to the controller 4, causing the controller to open the flow valve 5, allowing fluid to pass through the heat transfer plate 6, the supply hose 7 and the tap 3. Communication between the non-contact control sensor 2 and the controller 4 may be wireless by means of a transmitter and receiver. Alternatively, it may be by means of a sensor cable 8.

[064] If the water supply temperature is substantially at a predetermined target temperature, then fluid passes up to the tap 3 without the controller 4 powering the thermoelectric module 1 to heat or cool the fluid. This can be in response to a signal from a temperature sensor (not shown) located in or near to the fluid flow path, which communicates the temperature of the flowing fluid to the controller 4, either continuously, or at discrete intervals. For example, the sensor could communicate the fluid temperature to the controller 4 every two seconds, or every one second, while water is flowing.

[065] If the predetermined target temperature is higher than the actual fluid supply temperature, the controller 4 will cause power to be applied to the thermoelectric module 1 such that it provides heat to the heat transfer plate 6, and thereby to the fluid flowing through the heat transfer plate 6, until the predetermined target temperature is achieved.

[066] If the predetermined target temperature is lower than the actual fluid supply temperature, the controller 4 will cause power to be applied to the thermoelectric module 1 such that it draws heat from the heat transfer plate 6, and thereby from the fluid flowing through the heat transfer plate 6, until the predetermined target temperature is achieved.

[067] When the user’s hand is removed from the range of the non-contact control sensor 2, below the tap 3, the non-contact control sensor signals the controller 4 to close the flow valve 5 and stop the flow of fluid. In an alternative embodiment, the fluid flow is stopped in response to a timer indicating that a predetermined time has elapsed since the flow started. [068] The system is preferably powered by mains electricity, and may be provided as a plug-in unit or may be hard-wired into a house or other facility. Preferably, a back-up battery 9 is provided to at least one tap in a house or facility, in order to ensure water supply in the event of a power intermption.

[069] In order to increase the efficiency of heat transfer, the thermoelectric module 1 may be provided with a heat sink plate 10, preferably on the side opposite to the side which is thermally coupled to the heat transfer plate 6. The heat sink 10 may be finned for further improvements to efficiency.

[070] For ease of retrofitting, all of the key components, including the flow valve 5, the backup battery 9, the controller 4, the heat transfer plate 1, the thermoelectric module 6 and the heat sink 10, may be provided in a single casing 11. This is not essential, and these components may alternatively be distributed at different points in the system, or split into smaller groups housed in respective casings. The casing 11 or casings may be provided with gratings 12 or other means to facilitate airflow proximate the heat sink 10. Fans (not shown), for example, may be provided, although it may be advantageous to avoid components with moving parts.

[071] The skilled person will appreciate that, although the invention is suitable for retrofitting, it can equally form an original part of a newly built plumbing system or structure.

[072] Figure 2 depicts a CTST with two thermoelectric modules 21, 22 and two non-contact control sensors 23, 24: a left sensor 23 that signals the requirement for hot water and a right sensor 24 that signals the requirement for cold water (although this could equally be the other way around). In use, a hand placed to the right of the tap 3 triggers the right sensor 24, which signals the controller 4 to open the flow valve 5 and allow fluid to pass through the heater cooler assembly and out through the tap 3. If water supply temperature is substantially the same as the predetermined cold water temperature setting, as determined by a temperature sensor (not shown), or if the cold water setting defaults to mains temperature water irrespective of what that is, then the thermoelectric modules 21, 22 will not be powered by the controller 4 and the water at the tap 3 is the same temperature as the mains water supply.

[073] A hand placed to the left of the tap 3 triggers the left sensor 23, which signals to the controller 4 that hot water is required. The controller 4 consequently causes a voltage to be applied across the thermoelectric modules 21, 22 so as to heat the heat transfer plate 6 and, thereby, the fluid as it passes on its way to the tap 3.

[074] In an alternative embodiment (not shown), a first non-contact control sensor 2 is positioned at the front of the tap 3 to trigger the controller 4 to open the flow valve 5 to provide mains temperature water (probably cool); a second non-contact control sensor 23 is positioned on the left hand side, which triggers the controller 4 to power the thermoelectric modules 21, 22 and the flow valve 5 to provide heated water; and a third non-contact control sensor 24 is positioned on the right hand side, which triggers the controller 4 to power the thermoelectric modules 21, 22 with reverse polarity, and the flow valve 5, to provide chilled water. With this embodiment, if the supply to the various taps is a fresh water supply, it would be possible to have chilled drinking water at multiple locations in a home, rather than, for example, only the kitchen tap as in many homes.

[075] The order or position of the sensors with respect to the functions they trigger is not important. The hot and cold triggers could be on different sides, or in altogether different configurations.

[076] The thermoelectric assembly in Figure 2 comprises two thermoelectric modules 21, 22(other embodiments may provide more, or fewer). The controller 4 can power either or both thermoelectric modules 21, 22 to reach the desired fluid temperature. If both thermoelectric modules 21, 22 are powered together, then the controller 4 supplies current to both individually, so that they heat the heat transfer plate 6 from both sides or cool the heat transfer plate 6 from both sides.

[077] In effect, the heat transfer plate 6 of this embodiment is sandwiched between the two hot (or cold) sides of the thermoelectric devices 21, 22, and thus the heat transfer to (or from) the heat transfer plate 6 is more concentrated. In this way the heat transfer can be greater and more rapid, and the fluid passing through the heat transfer plate will reach the desired temperature more quickly.

[078] Figure 3 depicts a CTST of the invention comprising a heat plate 6 having a meandering passage for the through- flowing of fluid, and a multi-sensor strip 31 on the tap 3.

[079] The tubes within the heat transfer plate 6 follow a path designed to increase the time the fluid is within the plate 6, so that more heat is transferred from the heat transfer plate 6 into the fluid before it passes out of the heat transfer plate 6. The pattern shown is not limiting; there are many alternative patterns suitable for effective heat transferring flow paths through heat transfer plates 6 of the invention.

[080] The sensor strip 31 comprises a plurality of non-contact control sensors that, when triggered, send various respective signals to the controller 4, for example to set or adjust the flow rate or the temperature of the fluid being dispensed. For example, higher sensors may increase the temperature, while lower sensors may lower the temperature.

[081] Figure 4 shows a CTT system with multiple diverter valves 41 serving various taps or outlets 42-46 (such as, for example, the various taps and shower heads that might be found in a bathroom). The (optional) non-contact control sensors (not shown), controller 4 and thermoelectric elements 21, 22 combine to provide a supply of temperature controlled cold and hot water to baths, showers, basins, bidets, etc., perhaps in multiple rooms as required. [082] Such a system would be usable in any domestic, commercial, industrial or other installation requiring multiple supplies of hot and/ or cold water or other fluid.

[083] The figures so far each depict a single heat transfer plate 6, however, one or more heat transfer plates may be used and/ or combined. Figure 5 depicts an example using two heat transfer plates 51, 52. In this embodiment, a single thermoelectric module 1 is sandwiched between the two heat transfer plates 51, 52. This arrangement may be advantageous, for example, in embodiments where one heat transfer plate 51 is used for heating and the other heat transfer plate 52 is used for cooling (or vice versa). Since, when powered, a thermoelectric module has a hot side and a cold side, heat extracted from the heat plate 52 in contact with the cold side can contribute to the heating of the heat plate 51 in contact with the hot side. It will be apparent to the skilled person that various different configurations of heat transfer plates and thermoelectric modules can be combined, depending on the intended use, within the scope of the invention.

[084] Although the figures show fluids such as hot and cold water passing through the heat transfer plates in the same direction, fluids may go through the heat transfer plates in opposing directions. Alternatively, the direction of flow of one or more tubes through the systems of the invention may change over time.

[085] Figure 6 depicts a multiple non-contact control sensor strip 31, similar to that depicted in Figure 3, which may be situated at the front of a tap. The skilled reader will appreciate that other locations may also be suitable. In use, a user's hand position or motion is detected by one or a combination of the sensors 61 within the strip 31, which communicates with the controller, causing it to control the flow valves and/ or thermoelectric modules 21, 22 or other heating elements or mixers to provide fluid at the required temperature and/ or pressure. The strip 31 may be designed with sensors 61 at the top for hot or warm fluid , sensors 61 for a mains supply temperature in the centre and sensor 61 for cool chilled fluid at bottom.

[086] The sensor strip 31 shown has four sensors 61 in a column, but this is not to be taken as limiting. A sensor strip 31 could have two or more sensors 61 arranged vertically, horizontally, in a circular formation, or in any other arrangement. They could be sited on a tap, valve, wall, worktop, bathroom shower suite, panel, controller, remote control, holographic display, or any other user interface as will be apparent to the skilled person.

[087] Sensors could include infrared, temperature, pressure, magnetic, optical, motion, heat, proximity or any other suitable form of sensor.

[088] Furthermore, the CST interface could incorporate any form of touchless sensor operating system, including face recognition, swipe control, voice command, detection tracking recognition, hand gestures, etc. For example, an upwards hand gesture may start/ increase a flow of fluid, whereas a hand gesture downwards may slow/ stop the flow. A gesture left to right may decrease temperature, whereas a hand gesture right to left may increase temperature.

[089] In embodiments of the CST without thermoelectric heating, or even local heating, the taps of an otherwise conventional plumbing system may be controlled by means of a plurality of non-contact control sensors. In such embodiments, other conventional means of controlling temperature are actuated in response to appropriate signals from the sensors. This may include the actuation of a mixer, or the opening of different valves from different supplies.

[090] In any of the embodiments described here, stopping power to the thermoelectric modules will cause any residual heat in the assembly to transfer back through the thermoelectric modules as the system naturally approaches thermal equilibrium. Heat passing through a thermoelectric module generates a current by the Seebeck effect. This current can be resupplied to the system, or retained in a batery or other electrical energy storage system, such as a super capacitor, for later use.

[091] Where multiple thermoelectric modules are incorporated into the assembly, a mode of operation could be selectable such that one or more thermoelectric modules transfers heat to or from a heat transfer plate while others generate electrical current from heat energy that would otherwise be wasted from the system.

[092] For example, in an embodiment having two thermoelectric modules, both modules may act in concert to provide concentrated heat transfer to the heat transfer plate, in a first phase of operation. Once a desired temperature exists in the fluid, and thus a temperature gradient exists across the thermoelectric modules, and it is desirable to slow or stop further heat transfer, then either or both thermoelectric modules could revert to an energy generation mode in a second phase of operation.

[093] The embodiments described above have made use of a heat transfer plate, but the heat transfer member does not need to be planar. It may alternatively be a heat transfer block of any suitable shape, depending on the particular requirements.

[094] Individually controlling and powering multiple thermoelectric devices allows for a greater range of operations and increased flexibility .

[095] A performance profile could be implemented that maximizes heat transfer by the Peltier effect and energy generation through the Seebeck effect.

[096] The invention is an improvement over prior art and can save energy, materials and costs of running and installation. With no moving parts maintenance is limited and with non-contact control sensors rather than manual actuators, there is a reduced transfer of germs. Furthermore, opportunities for energy regain and energy generation with inherent energy savings make the invention more efficient. [097] Although the invention has been described with reference to several embodiments, these embodiments do not limit the scope of the invention. The scope of the invention is limited by the claims.