3 years ago

A numerical study on the design trade-offs of a thin-film thermoelectric generator for large-area applications.

Kirsi Tappura

Thin-film thermoelectric generators with a novel folding scheme are proposed for large-area, low energy density applications. Both the electrical current and heat transfer are in the plane of the thermoelectric thin-film, yet the heat transfer is across the plane of the thermoelectric module - similar to a conventional bulk thermoelectric module. With such a design, the heat leakage through the module itself can be minimized and the available temperature gradient maximized. Different from the previously reported corrugated thermoelectric generators, the proposed folding scheme enables high packing densities without compromising the thermal contact area to the heat source and sink. The very thin thermoelectric films (400 nm) and modest temperature gradients applied are shown to set some unconventional prerequisite for the design: the performance cannot be optimized by concentrating on maximizing the output power. Instead, specific attention has to be paid to the current production properties to enable practical applications. Various design aspects and their influence on the thermal transport mechanisms under heat sink limited conditions are analyzed and their (complex) impact on the performance highlighted. Further, it is shown that ZT describing the material properties is not always a good measure for predicting the power production of such thin-film devices.

Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1801.06418

DOI: arXiv:1801.06418v1

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