17 April 2017 Metallic junction thermoelectric device simulations
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Abstract
Thermoelectric junctions made of semiconductors have existed in radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) for deep space missions, but are currently being adapted for terrestrial energy harvesting. Unfortunately, these devices are inefficient, operating at only 7% efficiency. This low efficiency has driven efforts to make high-figure-of-merit thermoelectric devices, which require a high electrical conductivity but a low thermal conductivity, a combination that is difficult to achieve. Lowered thermal conductivity has increased efficiency, but at the cost of power output.

An alternative setup is to use metallic junctions rather than semiconductors as thermoelectric devices. Metals have orders of magnitude more electrons and electronic conductivities higher than semiconductors, but thermal conductivity is higher as well. To evaluate the viability of metallic junction thermoelectrics, a two dimensional heat transfer MATLAB simulation was constructed to calculate efficiency and power output. High Seebeck coefficient alloys, Chromel (90%Ni- 10%Cr) and Constantan (55%Cu-45%Ni), produced efficiencies of around 20-30%. Parameters such as the number of layers of junctions, lateral junction density, and junction sizes for both series- and parallel-connected junctions were explored.
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Adam J. Duzik, Adam J. Duzik, Sang H. Choi, Sang H. Choi, } "Metallic junction thermoelectric device simulations", Proc. SPIE 10167, Nanosensors, Biosensors, Info-Tech Sensors and 3D Systems 2017, 101670P (17 April 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2256675; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2256675
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