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Proceedings Paper

Thermoelectric energy conversion using nanostructured materials
Author(s): Gang Chen; Daniel Kraemer; Andrew Muto; Kenneth McEnaney; Hsien-Ping Feng; Wei-Shu Liu; Qian Zhang; Bo Yu; Zhifeng Ren
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Paper Abstract

High performance thermoelectric materials in a wide range of temperatures are essential to broaden the application spectrum of thermoelectric devices. This paper presents experiments on the power and efficiency characteristics of lowand mid-temperature thermoelectric materials. We show that as long as an appreciable temperature difference can be created over a short thermoelectric leg, good power output can be achieved. For a mid-temperature n-type doped skutterudite material an efficiency of over 11% at a temperature difference of 600 °C could be achieved. Besides the improvement of thermoelectric materials, device optimization is a crucial factor for efficient heat-to-electric power conversion and one of the key challenges is how to create a large temperature across a thermoelectric generator especially in the case of a dilute incident heat flux. For the solar application of thermoelectrics we investigated the concept of large thermal heat flux concentration to optimize the operating temperature for highest solar thermoelectric generator efficiency. A solar-to-electric power conversion efficiency of ~5% could be demonstrated. Solar thermoelectric generators with a large thermal concentration which minimizes the amount of thermoelectric nanostrucutured bulk material shows great potential to enable cost-effective electrical power generation from the sun.

Paper Details

Date Published: 16 May 2011
PDF: 4 pages
Proc. SPIE 8031, Micro- and Nanotechnology Sensors, Systems, and Applications III, 80311J (16 May 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.885759
Show Author Affiliations
Gang Chen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Daniel Kraemer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Andrew Muto, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Kenneth McEnaney, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Hsien-Ping Feng, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Wei-Shu Liu, Boston College (United States)
Qian Zhang, Boston College (United States)
Bo Yu, Boston College (United States)
Zhifeng Ren, Boston College (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8031:
Micro- and Nanotechnology Sensors, Systems, and Applications III
Thomas George; M. Saif Islam; Achyut K. Dutta, Editor(s)

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