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Modeling Thermoelectric Power Generation
Keywords: thermoelectric, CFD, modeling
Significant development has taken place in the design of thermoelectric power systems in the past few years. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) design tools and tighter integration with mechanical design software enable quicker and more accurate design of the heat exchangers at the hot and cold sides of thermoelectric materials. New thermoelectric materials are appearing that will allow operation at higher temperatures without the shortcomings of materials like lead telluride. Existing materials are being more accurately characterized. New generations of high efficiency power conditioners deliver more electrical power to loads over a wider range of thermoelectric temperature profiles. Even through all the innovations in design of thermoelectric generation described above, the lingering problem of modeling the total electric power output of a thermoelectric generator remains. The usual approach in which some estimate of the total conversion efficiency based on zT of the thermoelectric materials is seldom accurate enough to optimize the system design. This paper describes a modeling approach used by Ambient Micro in conjunction with CFD codes to create much more accurate determination of available electrical power by coupling the thermoelectric power generation into the total energy balance of the thermal design. The technique is described and modeled and measured performance of a working system is presented.
John Langley,
Ambient Micro LLC
Half Moon Bay, CA

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