Design Optimization of Thermoelectric Devices 640497

A versatile optimization technique for thermoelectric devices is described. The technique is unique because it is equally applicable for either thermoelectric refrigerators or generators. The only variables required for a given design are source and sink temperature, material properties, and application. For any set of conditions, junction temperatures are determined by the simultaneous solution of the energy balance equations at the hot and cold junctions. System design parameters are systematically varied to determine optimum design for maximum coefficient of performance, efficiency, power, or heat pumped per unit cost or weight, or a combination of the above. All relative design parameters such as element geometry, insulation area, and heat transfer to and from the junctions and current are optimized.
Two examples, a refrigerator optimized for maximum heat pumped per unit cost, and a generator for maximum power generated per unit cost, are described. Other optimizations are discussed, and variations and refinements of the technique are presented in the conclusions.


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