, Volume 39, Issue 9, pp 2112-2116
Date: 18 Nov 2009

Efficiency Study of a Commercial Thermoelectric Power Generator (TEG) Under Thermal Cycling

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Abstract

Thermoelectric generators (TEGs) make use of the Seebeck effect in semiconductors for the direct conversion of heat to electrical energy. The possible use of a device consisting of numerous TEG modules for waste heat recovery from an internal combustion (IC) engine could considerably help worldwide efforts towards energy saving. However, commercially available TEGs operate at temperatures much lower than the actual operating temperature range in the exhaust pipe of an automobile, which could cause structural failure of the thermoelectric elements. Furthermore, continuous thermal cycling could lead to reduced efficiency and lifetime of the TEG. In this work we investigate the long-term performance and stability of a commercially available TEG under temperature and power cycling. The module was subjected to sequential hot-side heating (at 200°C) and cooling for long times (3000 h) in order to measure changes in the TEG’s performance. A reduction in Seebeck coefficient and an increase in resistivity were observed. Alternating-current (AC) impedance measurements and scanning electron microscope (SEM) observations were performed on the module, and results are presented and discussed.