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Thermodynamic Modelling of Thermoelectric Generator Systems

S C Kaushik1, S Manikandan2, Ranjana Hans3


1

Professor, Centre for Energy Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

Research Scholars, Centre for Energy Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

Abstract
Second law analysis fetched significance in analysing thermal energy systems as it locates
and quantifies the irreversibilities in the system. This paper analyses the thermoelectric
generator systems through exergy analysis. Four thermodynamic models for thermoelectric
generator considering internal and external irreversibilities were developed in the MATLAB
Simulink environment with temperature dependent material properties and analysed with
various operating temperatures. Analytical formulas for exergy efficiencies and
irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator for all thermodynamic models were derived.
The result shows that the exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator is higher than the
energy efficiency. For a typical operating condition in irreversible thermoelectric generator
with 31 thermocouples and with TH and TC of 453K and 303K respectively, the maximum
energy and exergy efficiency obtained are 4.23% and 12.78% at same optimum current of
7.02A. The result also shows that the effect of internal irreversibilities is more pronounced in
the performance of thermoelectric generator system when compared with the external
irreversibilities. The effects of irreversible heat transfer and contact resistance in the exergy
efficiency is also studied. This study will be helpful in designing the actual thermoelectric
generator systems.
Keywords: Exergy analysis, Thermoelectric generator, Irreversibilities, Exergy efficiency
___________________________
Corresponding Authors
S Manikandan and S C Kaushik
Email: *manikandan@ces.iitd.ac.in and **kaushik@ces.iitd.ac.in
Phone: +91-11-2659-6465/1253
___________________________
1

Nomenclature
A

Area (m2)

Subscript

Ex

Exergy (W)

Hot junction of TEG

Current (A)

Cold junction of TEG

Irr

Irreversibilities (W)

ce

Ceramic layer

Thermal conductance (W/K)

en

Endoreversible TEG

Length (m)

ex

Exoreversible TEG

Electrical power (W)

Generator

Heat (W)

gen

Generation

Electrical resistance ()

ir

Irreversible TEG

Entropy (W/K)

lost

Lost

Temperature (K)

Mean temperature

Overall heat transfer coefficient n

n type material

(W/m2K)
V

Voltage (V)

Environment

Figure of merit (1/K)

out

Output

p type material

Total

Greek

letters

Cold side of TEG

Seebeck coefficient (V/K)

Hot side of TEG

Energy efficiency

Ideal TEG

Thermal conductivity (W/mK)

Electrical resistivity (/m)

Difference

Exergy efficiency

1. Introduction
Thermoelectric devices are solid state direct energy conversion devices for converting heat
into electricity and vice versa [1-4]. It operates on the combination of Seebeck, Peltier and
Thomson effects. Thermoelectric generator works as a heat engine operating between the two
heat reservoirs as shown in Figure 1 but its actual energy efficiency is lower than the ideal
Carnot efficiency because of the irreversibilities induced by the electrical, thermal and the
thermoelectric properties of the thermoelectric materials. Thermoelectric devices have
numerous advantages of being solid state device with no moving parts and require no
maintenance. It provides noiseless operation and offers light weight, compactness and hence
occupies small space [5].

Fig.1. (a) Heat engine, (b) Thermoelectric generator


The thermoelectric devices have better efficiencies at lower power levels compared with
conventional thermodynamic devices for power generation and space conditioning.
Therefore, the thermoelectric devices are best suited for low power applications [6]. The
power output of single thermoelectric couple is low and it can be increased to required level
by adding several thermoelectric couples in series-parallel combination.
The efficiency of the thermoelectric devices depends on electrical conductivity (), thermal
conductivity (k), and seebeck coefficient () of the thermoelectric material. The combination
of these material properties of a thermoelectric material is defined as figure of merit (FOM)

Rowe [3]. It has the unit of (1/K) as shown in Equation (1). FOM is often defined as
dimensionless figure of merit by multiplying it with mean operating temperature (Tm).

ZTm

(1)

2
T
k m

Where, Tm

(2)
TH TC
2

To understand the reversible and irreversible effects in thermoelectric systems, one can
classify them thermodynamically into four categories based on the irreversibilities in the
system such as ideal (or) reversible system, exoreversible system, endoreversible system, and
irreversible system as shown in Figure 2. Any thermoelectric systems always have internal
irreversibilities because of the intrinsic material properties. Super conductors have very low
electrical resistivity but its electrical/thermal conductivity is high, and its seebeck coefficient
is also very small so its figure of merit will be very low and hence they may not be potential
thermoelectric materials. Therefore, the term ideal thermoelectric system may not be
thermodynamically possible. However, in this study the authors studied four thermodynamic
models of thermoelectric generator system, so that the internal and external irreversibilities in
the system can be easily identified/ differentiated and can be quantified. So the exergy
analysis of thermoelectric generator can be done without any complexity.
Cvahtet and Strnad [7] thermodynamically analysed the ideal thermoelectric heat engine and
heat pump and compared it with the actual systems. Nuwayhid et al. [8] have analysed the
thermoelectric generator system based on entropy generation minimization method. Sharma
et al. [9] have done exergy analysis on single and multi stage exoreversible thermoelectric
cooling system and stated that the exergy efficiency is lower than the energy efficiency.
Tipsaenporm er al. [10] have done thermodynamic analysis in thermoelectric cooler and
found out second law efficiency is less than the energy efficiency.

Fig. 2. Types of thermodynamic thermoelectric systems


Exergy analysis provides the true measure of efficiency since it take into considerations of
first and second law of thermodynamics. With this technique one can pin point where the
actual exergy destruction is taking place in the system so that the avoidable exergy losses can
be reduced by taking corrective actions [11-15].
From the literature survey, it is found that exergy analysis in thermoelectric generator
systems is not done and the effect of contact resistance and irreversible heat transfer in
exergy efficiency is also not been studied. Therefore, we intended to fill these gaps in the
present paper.
2. Thermodynamic Modelling of Thermoelectric Generator Systems
The thermodynamic models of the thermoelectric generator system were modelled in
MATLAB Simulink environment. The detailed thermodynamic modelling of thermoelectric
generator is discussed in detail in following sub sections.
2.1. Exergy Analysis
Consider the heat engine shown in Figure 1(a) then by the first law of thermodynamics the
energy balance can be given as follows [14]
QH QC Pout

(3)

Following the second law of thermodynamics the entropy generation is given by


5

S gen Ssystem Ssurrounding 0

(4)

or

S gen

QH QC

0
TH TC

(5)

Combining first and second law of thermodynamics, the exergy balance in any
thermodynamic system at steady state can be given as
Exin Exout Irreversibilities Exlost

(6)

In the above equation, Exin is exergy input to the system, Exout is the exergy output of the
system, Exlost is the exergy lost in the output stream (if present) and Irreversibilities are the
exergy destroyed in the process. The exergy lost have two quantities, which are recoverable
exergy waste and non recoverable exergy waste. In the thermoelectric system we can classify
the irreversibilities into two categories, which are internal and external irreversibilities as
discussed in Section 2.2.
The exergy input to the system is the thermal exergy (EQh). The exergy output is the electrical
power which is (Pout) and it is 100% exergy. Whereas EQh is defined as follows

T
EQh QH 1 o
TH

(7)

Where To is the environment temperature, then the exergy balance becomes

T
T
QH 1 o Pout Irr QC 1 o
TH
TC
Irr QC

(8)

To
T
QH o QC QH Pout
TC
TH

(9)

By substituting Pin in Equation (9) and solving for irreversibilities, we get

Q Q
Irr To C H
TC TH

(10)

Comparing Equations (5) and (10), irreversibilities (Irr) becomes


6

Irr To S gen

(11)

Therefore, it is clear that the irreversibilities in the system are dependent on the
environmental temperature. In the thermoelectric generator system, cold side temperature TC
is the environment temperature To. Then the exergy efficiency can be defined as

TS
Exergy Out Pout

1 C gen
Exergy in
EQh
EQh

(12)

Therefore, by knowing the irreversibilities in the system one can find the exergy efficiency of
a thermoelectric system. This procedure is followed by the authors in finding the
irreversibilities in all four thermodynamic models of thermoelectric generator systems.
The temperature dependent properties of thermoelectric material used in this study are given
below as provided by Xuan et.al. [16].

p ( n ) 2 22224.0 930.6Tm 0.9905Tm 2 109

(13)

n p 5112.0 163.4Tm 0.6279Tm2 1010

(14)

kn k p 62605.0 277.7Tm 0.4131Tm 2 104

(15)

Certain assumptions are made in the thermodynamic modelling of the thermoelectric


generator systems that are as follows:

There is no other mode of heat transfer from the hot junction to cold junction of the
thermoelectric generator other than the Fouriers heat conduction phenomena by the
inherent thermal conductivity of thermoelectric materials.

Thomson effect is not considered for the analysis.

2.2. Thermodynamic modelling of Thermoelectric Generator


The block diagram of irreversible thermoelectric generator is shown in Figure 1(b). Number
of thermocouples in a thermoelectric system (n) is 31 and all the thermocouples are
connected electrically series.

2.2.1. Ideal Thermoelectric Generator Systems


The ideal thermoelectric generator system is one which does not possess internal and external
irreversibilities.
Therefore, by first law of thermodynamics the energy balance at hot and cold junction of
ideal thermoelectric generator is given as follows

QH n IT1

(16)

QC n IT2

(17)

In case of the ideal thermodynamic system the heat source temperature and hot junction
temperature are same (TH = T1) and the heat sink temperature and cold junction temperature
are same (TC = T2). For the ideal thermoelectric generator entropy generation Sgen is zero.
By substituting Equations (16) and (17) in (10), the irreversibilities in the ideal thermoelectric
generator can be derived and written as

n ITC n ITH
Irr To

0
TH
TC

(18)

Then the first law efficiency (energy efficiency) and the second law efficiency (exergy
efficiency) of ideal thermoelectric generator can be written as

I ,g

Pout I TH TC TH TC

QH
ITH
TH

I ,g

I ,g

(19)

n I TH TC
Exout Pout
TH TC

Exin EQh
T
T
n ITH 1 o TH 1 o
TH
TH

I , g
TC
1
TH

100%

(20)

(21)

It can be seen from the Equations (19) that, the Carnot efficiency is the limit of energy
efficiency in the ideal thermoelectric generator. It can also be noted that the ideal efficiency
8

of thermoelectric system is only the function of temperatures and not dependent on the
material property and it can be greater than 100%.
The exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator is also the function of the junction
temperature only and not dependent on the material properties. The exergy efficiency of
thermoelectric generator for ideal thermodynamic conditions is 100% and this is the highest
limit of efficiency of any hypothetical thermoelectric generator. It should be noted that the
power output of the thermoelectric generator is a function of material property () only.
Seebeck effect is a reversible phenomenon therefore, the irreversibilities in the ideal
thermoelectric system is zero.
2.2.2. Endoreversible Thermoelectric Generator System
The endoreversible thermodynamic system is one which is internally reversible and
externally irreversible. Therefore, in the endoreversible thermoelectric system the internal
irreversibilities are absent but the external irreversibilities due to irreversible heat transfer at
hot and cold sides of thermoelectric generator is present.
Therefore, by first law of thermodynamics, the energy balance at hot and cold junction of
endoreversible thermoelectric generator can be given as follows

QH n IT1

(22)

QC n IT2

(23)

In the endoreversible thermoelectric generator the external irreversibilities are caused by the
irreversible heat transfer because of the finite thermal resistance of the ceramic layer, which
is used as the electrical insulator at the hot and cold junctions. Therefore, the heat transfer
from the hot and the cold junction QH and QC also can be written as follows:
QH U h Ah (TH T1 )

(24)

QC U c Ac (T2 TC )

(25)

In case of the endoreversible thermodynamic system, heat source temperature is TH, the hot
junction temperature is T1, the heat sink temperature is TC and the cold junction temperature
is T2. The actual hot junction and cold junction temperature of the endoreversible
9

thermoelectric generator system can be analytically derived by substituting Equations (22)


and (23) in Equations (24) and (25) and it can be written as follows.
T1

U h AhTH
U h Ah n I

(26)

T2

U c AcTC
U c Ac n I

(27)

By solving the above equation for constant TH and TC, we get T1<TH and T2>TC. From
Equation (6) the exergy output of the endoreversible thermoelectric generator system can be
calculated. The irreversibilities in the endoreversible thermoelectric generator system can be
calculated from Equation (10) and it is finite and non zero. The entropy generation Sgen can
be calculated as per the entropy balance obtained from the second law of thermodynamics in
the endoreversible thermoelectric generator systems.

n IT2 n IT1
I (TH T2 TT

1 C)
Irr To

n
0
T
T
T
H

(28)

Therefore, the first law efficiency and the second law efficiency of the endoreversible
thermoelectric generator can be given as

en , g

Pout n I T1 T2 T1 T2

QH
n IT1
T1

(29)

In the endoreversible thermoelectric generator the power input Pout can be given as follows
Pout QH QC n I (T1 T2 )

(30)

Then the exergy efficiency of endoreversible thermoelectric generator can be given as

en, g

en , g

TS
Exout Pout EQh I

1 C gen
Exin EQh
EQh
EQh

T2TH T1TC
n I
TH

EQh

(31)

(32)

10

en, g

T1 T2


T
1 en, g
TH TC I , g

TH

(33)

It can be seen from the Equation (29) that the COP of the endoreversible thermoelectric
generator is lower than the ideal thermoelectric generator since T1 <TH and T2 > TC. It is also
to be noted that the irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator is finite and caused
because of the irreversible heat transfer in the system. Therefore, the irreversibilities in the
endoreversible thermoelectric system can be called as external irreversibilities. The external
irreversibility can be reduced by reducing the thermal resistances at hot and cold side of
thermoelectric generator. The exergy efficiency of endoreversible thermoelectric generator is
less than the ideal case because of added irreversibilities in the system.
2.2.3. Exoreversible Thermoelectric Generator System
The exoreversible thermodynamic system is one which is externally reversible and internally
irreversible. Therefore, in the exoreversible thermoelectric system the internal irreversibilities
due to the material properties and the contact resistance between the metal and the
thermocouple are present but the external irreversibilities due to irreversible heat transfer is
absent.
Therefore, by first law of thermodynamics, the energy balance at hot and cold junction of
exoreversible thermoelectric generator is given as follows

I 2R
QH n IT1
K (T1 T2 )
2

(34)

I 2R
QC n IT2
K (T1 T2 )
2

(35)

In case of the exoreversible thermodynamic system, heat source temperature and the hot
junction temperature are same (TH = T1), and the heat sink temperature and the cold junction
temperature are same (TC = T2).
The thermal conductance (K) of the thermocouple in exoreversible and irreversible
thermoelectric generator is defined as
11

k A k A
K n n p p K conducting meteal
Lp
Ln

(36)

For the exoreversible and irreversible thermoelectric generator, the electrical resistance of
thermocouple (R) is defined as
L L
R n n p p Rcontact Rconducting
Ap
An

(37)

metal

In the exoreversible thermoelectric generator, the overall heat transfer coefficient between the
heat source and cold junction and between the heat sink and hot junction of the
thermoelectric generator is infinity as given by Equation (38). Therefore, the thermal
resistance between the heat source and the cold junction and the thermal resistance between
the heat sink and the hot junction of the thermoelectric generator is zero.
U c Ac U h Ah

(38)

From Equation (6) the exergy output of the exoreversible thermoelectric generator system can
be calculated. The irreversibilities in the exoreversible thermoelectric generator system can
be calculated from Equation (10) and it is finite and non zero because of the thermoelectric
material properties and the contact resistance. The entropy generation Sgen can be calculated
as per the entropy balance obtained by the second law of thermodynamics.
ITC I 2 R K (TH TC ) ITH I 2 R K (TH TC )
Irr nTo

0
2TC
TC
2TH
TH

TH
TC

(39)

I 2 RTm K (TH TC )2
Irr nTo

0
TH TC
TH TC

(40)

The energy/exergy output (Pout) of exoreversible thermoelectric generator can be given as


Pout I (TH TC ) I 2 R

(41)

Then the optimum current for maximum power output (Ipout) can be given as
I pout

(TH TC )

(42)

2R
12

Then the first law efficiency and the second law efficiency of the exoreversible
thermoelectric generator can be given as

ex , g

n I TH TC I 2 R
Pout

QH

I 2R
n ITH
K (TH TC )
2

ex, g

ex , g

(43)

TS
Exout Pout EQh I

1 C gen
Exin EQh
EQh
EQh

(44)

I 2 RTm K (TH TC ) 2

TH
TH

T
QH 1 C

TH

ex , g

(45)

n I TH TC I 2 R
T
ITH 1 C
TH

I 2 R TC

1
2

TH

TC
K (TH TC ) 1

TH

(46)

The optimum current at maximum exergy efficiency (Iexergy) can be obtained by


differentiating the above equation with respect to current I, thus the optimum current of
exoreversible thermoelectric generator at maximum exergy efficiency is obtained as given
below
I exergy

(TH TC )
R (1 1 Tm Z )

I energy

(47)

The above equation is same as the equation for optimum current at maximum energy
efficiency (Ienergy). Therefore, the exergy efficiency and energy efficiency will be maximum
at same current (Ienergy).
Then by substituting Iexergy in Equation 46, the maximum exergy efficiency of thermoelectric
generator is derived by the authors as given in Equation 48. This equation is same as the
exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator given by Wisniewski et al. [17].

13

ex , g

T T
H C
TH

1 ZTm 1
T
C 1 ZTm
T
H

T
H

H TC


1 ZTm 1
T
C 1 ZTm
TH

(48)

It can be seen from Equation (48) that the exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator is
less than the endoreversible case and it is a function of material properties and the junction
temperatures.
2.2.4. Irreversible Thermoelectric Generator System
The irreversible thermodynamic system is one which is internally and externally irreversible.
Therefore, in the irreversible thermoelectric system the internal irreversibilities due to the
material properties and the contact resistance between the metal and the thermocouple are
present with the external irreversibilities caused by the irreversible heat transfer between the
heat source and cold junction and between the heat sink and hot junction. Therefore, the
irreversible thermoelectric generator is the closer approximation of the actual thermoelectric
generator system.
By the first law of thermodynamics, the energy balance at hot and cold junction of
irreversible thermoelectric generator is given as follows

I 2R
QH n IT1
K (T1 T2 )
2

(49)

I 2R
QC n IT2
K (T1 T2 )
2

(50)

The heat flow from the hot and the cold junctions (QH and QC) in irreversible thermoelectric
generator can also be written as follows
QH U h Ah (T1 TH )

(51)

QC U c Ac (TC T2 )

(52)

By solving the Equations (49), (50), (51) and (52) for the hot (T1) and cold junction (T2)
temperatures of irreversible thermoelectric generator, the expression for T1 and T2 can be
written as follows as derived by the authors
14

U h AhTH 0.5nI 2 R AcU c nK n I 0.5n 2 KRI 2 nKU c AcTC

T1
nK AcU c n I AhU h nK n I n 2 K 2

(53)

AcU cTC 0.5nI 2 R AhU h nK n I 0.5n 2 KRI 2 nKU h AhTH

T2
2
2
nK AcU c n I AhU h nK n I n K

(54)

In case of the irreversible thermodynamic system, heat sink temperature and the hot junction
temperature are different (TH > T1) and the heat source temperature and the cold junction
temperature are different (TC < T2).
In the irreversible thermoelectric generator, the heat transfer coefficient between the heat
source and the cold junction is finite because of the finite thermal conductivity of the ceramic
layer as given by Equation (55). The value of Uc and Uh is assumed as 170W/m2K as given
by Chen et al. [17].
U c Ac

kce Ac
Lce

(55)

where, kce is the thermal conductivity of the ceramic layer. The heat transfer coefficient
between the hot junction and the heat sink (UhAh) also follows the same notation of Equation
(55).
From Equation (6) the exergy output of the irreversible thermoelectric generator can be
calculated. The irreversibilities in the system can be calculated from Equation (10) and it is
finite and non zero. The entropy generation Sgen can be calculated as per the entropy balance
obtained by the second law of thermodynamics.
IT2 I 2 R K (T1 T2 ) IT1 I 2 R K (T1 T2 )
Irr nTo

0
2TC
TC
2TH
TH

TH
TC

(56)

I (TH T2 TT
I 2 RTm K (TH TC )(T1 T2 )
1 C)
Irr nTo

0
TH TC
TH TC
TH TC

(57)

The energy/exergy output (Pout) of irreversible thermoelectric generator can be given as


Pout I (T1 T2 ) I 2 R

(58)
15

Then the optimum current for maximum power output (Ipout) for irreversible thermoelectric
generator can be given as
I pout

(T1 T2 )

(59)

2R

Therefore, the first law efficiency and the second law efficiency of the irreversible
thermoelectric generator can be given as

ir , g

n I T1 T2 I 2 R
Pout

QH

I 2R
n IT1
K (T1 T2 )
2

ir , g

ir , g

(60)

TS
Exout Pout EQh I

1 C gen
Exin EQh
EQh
EQh

(61)

I TH TC I 2 R

1
I (T T T T ) I 2 RT
K (TH TC )(T1 T2 )
2 H
1 C
m



TH
TH
TH

(62)

And by simplifying the above equation we get the exergy efficiency of irreversible
thermoelectric generator as follows

ir , g

I (T1 T2 ) I 2 R
T
IT1 1 C
TH

I 2 R TC

1
2

TH

TC
K (T1 T2 ) 1

TH

(63)

The optimum current at maximum exergy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator


(Iexergy) can be obtained by differentiating the above equation with respect to current I, thus
the optimum current in the irreversible thermoelectric generator at maximum exergy
efficiency can be given below as derived by the authors
I exergy

(T1 T2 )

(64)

R(1 1 Tm Z )

The above equation is same as the equation for optimum current at maximum energy
efficiency (Ienergy) for irreversible thermoelectric generator but the mean temperature (Tm) is
16

the mean of T1 and T2. Therefore, the exergy efficiency and energy efficiency of irreversible
thermoelectric generator is maximum at same current (Ienergy = Iexergy).
Then by substituting Iexergy in Equation (63), the maximum exergy efficiency of irreversible
thermoelectric generator can be written as derived by the authors is as follows. Note that ir,hp
is the maximum energy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator.

ir , g

T T 1 ZT 1
m
1 2
T1 T2 1 ZT
m
T

T
H

H TC

ir , g

I ,g

(65)

It can be seen from Equation (65) that the exergy efficiency of the irreversible thermoelectric
generator is less than the ideal, endoreversible and exoreversible thermodynamic case and it
is a function of material properties, junction temperatures and the heat source and heat sink
temperatures. This expression for the exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator may
closely approximate the actual exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator.
3. Results and Discussion
The energy and exergy analysis of the thermoelectric generator systems for all possible
thermodynamic models have been carried out for various operating conditions in MATLAB
Simulink environment.
The thermodynamic models of thermoelectric generator explained in section 2.2 were
analysed with fixed hot and cold junction temperatures. The cold side temperature (TC) is
fixed at 303K in all the cases and the hot side temperature (TH) is fixed at 453K, 428K and
403K to calculate the performance parameters. Tg is the temperature difference between the
hot and cold side of the thermoelectric generator.

17

Fig.3. Power output of exoreversible thermoelectric generator for different Tg


The power output of the ideal and endoreversible thermoelectric generator increases linearly
because the internal irreversibilities are absent in these cases. These two cases will be
impractical because the thermal and electrical resistance of thermoelectric material is finite
and non zero.
The power output of the exoreversible thermoelectric generator is shown in Figure 3 for
different Tg with fixed TC of 303K. The figure shows that the there is an optimum power
output for a particular Tg. The optimum current at maximum power can be calculated from
Equation (42). There is an optimum power output because the effect of nonlinear Joule
heating is more prominent at higher currents than Ipout. For a typical operating condition for
Tg of 150K in exoreversible thermoelectric generator the optimum power output occurs at
Ipout of 10.1 A.

18

Fig.4. Power output of irreversible thermoelectric generator for different Tg


The power output of the irreversible thermoelectric generator for different Tg with fixed TC
of 303K is presented in Figure 4. The power output of irreversible thermoelectric generator is
less than the exoreversible thermoelectric generator. This is because the hot junction
temperature T1 is lower than heat source temperature TH and the cold junction temperature T2
is higher than the heat sink temperature TC, thereby lowering the effective temperature
difference between the hot and cold junction of irreversible thermoelectric generator (T1-T2 <
TH-TC). It also shows that the current at optimum power is less than the exoreversible case.
For a typical operating condition for Tg of 150K in irreversible thermoelectric generator the
optimum power output occurs at Ipout of 7.8A

19

Fig.5. Energy efficiency of exoreversible thermoelectric generator for different Tg


The energy efficiency of thermoelectric generator for the ideal case is dependent on the
temperature only as stated by Carnot theorem and it is well known. In the ideal case of
thermoelectric generator the energy efficiency is constant for all currents. The energy
efficiency of endoreversible thermoelectric generator decreases with increase in current. The
energy efficiency of exoreversible thermoelectric generator is lower than the endoreversible
case because of the internal irreversibilities induced by thermal and electrical properties of
thermoelectric materials. The energy efficiency of the exoreversible thermoelectric generator
is maximum at optimum current Ienergy. The energy efficiency of exoreversible thermoelectric
generator is maximum at Ienergy of 8.6A for Tg of 150K.

20

Fig.6. Energy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator for different Tg


The energy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator is presented in Figure 6. It
shows that the energy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator is less than the
exoreversible case. The current at optimum energy efficiency for Tg of 150K is 6.8A and it
is lower than the exoreversible case. This is because of the lower temperature differential
between the hot and cold junction of irreversible thermoelectric generator compared with
exoreversible thermoelectric generator (T1-T2 < TH-TC). Lower temperature differential is
because of irreversible heat transfer between the hot junction and heat sink and between cold
junction and heat source of thermoelectric generator.

21

Fig.7. Exergy efficiency of exoreversible thermoelectric generator for different Tg


Exergy analysis gives the true efficiency of the thermal energy system since it consider
second law of thermodynamics combined with first law of thermodynamics to analyse the
thermal energy systems. The exergy analysis in all four thermodynamic models of
thermoelectric generator can give the complete picture of external and internal
irreversibilities occurring in the system.
The exergy efficiency of ideal thermoelectric generator is 100% since internal and external
irreversibilities are absent in ideal thermodynamic systems. The exergy efficiency of
exoreversible thermoelectric generator is shown in Figure 7. This shows the exergy efficiency
of thermoelectric generator is higher than the energy efficiency because of the loss of exergy
due to internal irreversibilities. The energy and exergy efficiency has its maximum at Iexergy as
seen from Equation (47). It also shows that the exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator
increases with increase in Tg but the increment is very low. This is because the exergy input
(thermal exergy) decreases with decrease in TH as shown in Equation 7 and 34.

22

Fig.8. Exergy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator for different Tg


The exergy efficiency of the irreversible thermoelectric generator is presented in Figure 8. It
shows that the exergy efficiency of the irreversible thermoelectric generator is less than the
exoreversible case. This is because of added external irreversibilities with the internal
irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator system. This figure shows that the maximum
energy efficiency and maximum exergy efficiency occurs at same current.
The exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator is higher than the energy efficiency. This
can only be observed/ explained by the exergy analysis and not on the basis of energy
analysis. The exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator is high since it uses low exergy
heat source (low temperature heat source) as the input. This makes the thermoelectric
generator superior than other conventional power convertors. The greatest advantage of
thermoelectric power generator compared with other power generators is it can utilize low
grade waste heat to produce work output with comparable exergy efficiency.

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Fig.9. Irreversibilities in different thermodynamic modes of thermoelectric generator


The irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator system for constant Tg of 150K for
different thermodynamic cases are presented in the Figure 9. It shows that the irreversibilities
in the irreversible thermoelectric generator system are higher than the exoreversible case
which is higher than the endoreversible case. It is also clear from the Figure 9 that the internal
irreversibilities are high when compared with the external irreversibilities. With the help of
the method presented in this paper, one can quantify the internal and external irreversibilities
in the thermoelectric generator systems.
The internal irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator systems cannot be controlled by
external means, but the external irreversibilities can be controlled by decreasing the overall
thermal resistances at hot and cold junction of thermoelectric generator. The internal
irreversibilities can only be reduced by increasing FOM of the thermoelectric material and
also by reducing the contact resistances.

24

Fig.10. Power output and exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator for variable heat
transfer area
The effect of irreversible heat transfer at the hot and cold side of the thermoelectric generator
in the exergy efficiency is also studied and it is presented in Figure 10. It shows that the
decrease in the total external heat transfer area decreases the power output and maximum
exergy efficiency because it decreases the hot junction temperature and increases the cold
junction temperature thereby decreases the effective temperature difference (T1-T2) between
the hot and cold junction of the thermoelectric generator and thus reduces the power output
and the exergy efficiency. It also shows that the exoreversible case is the maximum limit of
power output and efficiency in any actual thermoelectric generator system.

25

Fig.11. Irreversibilities in thermoelectric generator for variable heat transfer area


The irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator for different heat transfer area are shown
in Figure 11. It shows that the irreversibilities decreases with decrease in heat transfer area.
This may leads to wrong conclusion about the irreversibilities occurring in the thermoelectric
generator system. The decrease in irreversibilities is because when the heat transfer area
decreases the effective temperature difference (T1-T2) between the hot and cold junction of
the thermoelectric generator also reduces. This reduces the effective heat input QH needed to
the thermoelectric generator and hence the irreversibilities, but if we consider the ratio of
irreversibilities to the heat input, it becomes clear that the percentage of irreversibilities
increases if the heat transfer area decreases and the exoreversible case have lesser
irreversibilities. This is shown in Figure 12.

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Fig.12. Dimensionless irreversibilities in thermoelectric generator for variable heat transfer


area
The dimensionless irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator for different heat transfer
area are shown in Figure 12. It shows that the decrease in heat transfer area increases the
irreversibilities in thermoelectric generator and the irreversibilities in the exoreversible
thermoelectric generator is lower than the other cases. This makes the exergy efficiency of
exoreversible thermoelectric generator higher than the irreversible cases.

27

Fig.13. Power output and exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator for variable contact
resistance
The effect of contact resistance Rcontact between the thermoelectric couples and metal contact
in the exergy efficiency has been studied since it is one of the important parameter affecting
the heating power and efficiency of the thermoelectric devices. Figure 13 shows the effect of
contact resistance in the generator power output and exergy efficiency and it shows increase
in contact resistance decreases the exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator.

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Fig.14. Irreversibilities in thermoelectric generator for variable contact resistance


The irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator for different contact resistance are shown
in Figure 14. It shows that the increase in contact resistance increases the internal
irreversibilities in thermoelectric generator.
It can be seen from Figure 12 and 14 that the decrease in heat transfer area and increase in
contact resistance increases the irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator systems. It is
also proved that at higher currents the effect of contact resistance is more in the performance
than the irreversible heat transfer because the irreversibilities are more with the increase in
contact resistance. Therefore, care must be taken during the assembling/designing of the
thermoelectric generator systems.
The internal irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator system is very high compared to
the external irreversibilities and once the thermoelectric material with higher FOM is found
then the energy/exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator can be made higher and this
will be possible in near future. Table 1 aggregates the results obtained in this study for a
typical operating condition.

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Table.1. Comparison of performance parameters of exoreversible and irreversible


thermoelectric generator for Tg of 150K
Sl.

Performance parameters

No

Exoreversible

Irreversible

thermoelectric

thermoelectric

generator

generator

Maximum energy efficiency

5.16%

4.23%

Maximum exergy efficiency

16.60 %

12.78 %

ICOP, Iexergy

8.6 A

6.8 A

Ipout

10.1 A

7.8 A

Power output at maximum energy

10.70 W

7.08 W

efficiency
6

Maximum power output

10.94 W

7.18 W

Irreversibilities at maximum

58 W

48.32 W

60.5 W

50 W

energy/exergy efficiency
8

Irreversibilities at maximum
power output

Table 1 show that the irreversibilities in the exoreversible thermoelectric generator are higher
than the irreversible case. The actual reason for the same is explained with the help of Figure
11 and 12 in the text. The exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator system for typical
operating conditions obtained in this study is compared with the exergy efficiency of solar
photovoltaic generator as per the data available from Sahin et al. [19]. It shows that the
exergy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator is almost same as the solar
photovoltaic generator. But the energy efficiency of thermoelectric generator is very low
when compared with the crystalline silicon solar cells. Therefore, the freely available solar
heat can also be used to generate electrical energy (exergy) by using solar thermoelectric

30

generator considering the economics, land requirements, temperature and other practical
aspects of the power generation systems.
4. Conclusions
Exergy analyses of all possible thermodynamic models of thermoelectric generator have been
carried out. This study provides complete details of the irreversibilities in the thermoelectric
generator system.

Analytical expressions for the exergy efficiency and irreversibilities in all possible
thermodynamic models of thermoelectric generator system have been derived.

The results show that the exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator is higher than
the energy efficiency.

The exergy efficiency of all the thermodynamic models of thermoelectric generator is


lower than the energy efficiency. e.g., In irreversible thermoelectric generator the
maximum energy efficiency is 4.23% and the maximum exergy efficiency is 12.78%
for the same operating temperatures.

The first law and second law efficiency of the exoreversible and irreversible
thermoelectric generator are maximum at same current. e.g., The first law and second
law efficiency of the irreversible thermoelectric generator is maximum at same
current of 6.8A.

The exergy output of thermoelectric generator increases with increase in Tg.

The increase in total contact resistance decreases the exergy efficiency of the
thermoelectric generator.

The decrease in total external heat transfer area at hot and cold side of thermoelectric
generator decreases the exergy efficiency.

The effect of internal irreversibilities in the performance of thermoelectric generator


is more when compared with the external irreversibilities.

31

The above studies will be very helpful in designing of actual thermoelectric generator
systems and give better understanding about the thermodynamic modelling,
irreversibilities and entropy generation in the thermoelectric generator systems.
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