Unified theory for inhomogeneous thermoelectric generators and coolers including multistage devices

York Christian Gerstenmaier, Gerhard Wachutka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

A novel generalized Lagrange multiplier method for functional optimization with inclusion of subsidiary conditions is presented and applied to the optimization of material distributions in thermoelectric converters. Multistaged devices are considered within the same formalism by inclusion of position-dependent electric current in the legs leading to a modified thermoelectric equation. Previous analytical solutions for maximized efficiencies for generators and coolers obtained by Sherman, Snyder, and Seifert by a method of local optimization of reduced efficiencies are recovered by independent proof. The outstanding maximization problems for generated electric power and cooling power can be solved swiftly numerically by solution of a differential equation-system obtained within the new formalism. As far as suitable materials are available, the inhomogeneous TE converters can have increased performance by use of purely temperature-dependent material properties in the thermoelectric legs or by use of purely spatial variation of material properties or by a combination of both. It turns out that the optimization domain is larger for the second kind of device which can, thus, outperform the first kind of device.

Original languageEnglish
Article number056703
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical Physics, Plasmas, Fluids, and Related Interdisciplinary Topics
Volume86
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 5 Nov 2012

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