Thermoelectric Generators

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A thermoelectric circuit composed of materials of different Seebeck coefficient (p-doped and n-doped semiconductors), configured as a thermoelectric generator.

Thermoelectric (TE) effect

Thermoelectric materials generate power directly from heat by converting temperature differences into electric voltage. A thermoelectric module is a circuit containing thermoelectric materials that generate electricity from heat directly. It consists of two dissimilar thermoelectric materials joining in their ends: an n-type (negatively charged); and a p-type (positively charged) semiconductors.

TE devices - characteristics

  • This can potentially be very inexpensive if low-cost TE generators can be fabricated.
  • TE generators have great potential for reliable conversion of heat to electricity. For example: TEG Power Info lists a 50 Watt 12V unit. If you get 20 and hook them up to a gasifier then you have something that can do useful work. It has one moving part. Which is a small easily replaceable cooling pump. These will last 20+ years and reliably produce power.

Marcin Comment

This is excellent. Do you have practical experience with these? Can you lead a design effort to produce a robust, replicable TEG system? The heat sinking and packaging issues are not trivial in terms of making lifetime design systems, so that is why we have stayed away from these. Are you familiar with how to manufacture these? That would be very valuable information for resilient community enterprise.

Applications and Product Ecology

  • this concept works on the temperature differential. Therefore, not just heat but also cooling is often required, so that the "cool" side of the device does not overheat, erasing the differential. Some devices on the market solve this by adding a fan (requiring electricity). Another possibility is to use water for cooling.
  • is small scale production possible ? practical materials required.
  • TE effect for small-scale solar thermal electricity (see: heliostat)
  • heat from biomass (combustion; pyrolysis, see: biochar)
  • co-generation at the very small (household) scale: space heating and electricity

External links