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The impact of thermoelectric leg geometries on thermal resistance and power output

Abstract : Thermoelectric devices enable direct, solid-state conversion of heat to electricity and vice versa. Rather than designing the shape of thermoelectric units or legs to maximize this energy conversion, the cuboid shape of these legs has instead remained unchanged in large part because of limitations in the standard manufacturing process. However, the advent of additive manufacturing (a technique in which freeform geometries are built up layer-by-layer) offers the potential to create unique thermoelectric leg geometries designed to optimize device performance. This work explores this new realm of novel leg geometry by simulating the thermal and electrical performance of various leg geometries such as prismatic, hollow, and layered structures. The simulations are performed for two materials, a standard bismuth telluride material found in current commercial modules and a higher manganese silicide material proposed for low cost energy conversion in high-temperature applications. The results include the temperature gradient and electrical potential developed across individual thermoelectric legs as well as thermoelectric modules with 16 legs. Even simple hollow and layered leg geometries result in larger temperature gradients and higher output powers than the traditional cuboid structure. The clear dependence of thermal resistance and power output on leg geometry provides compelling motivation to explore additive manufacturing of thermoelectric devices.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, January 14, 2020 - 10:20:29 AM
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Yohann Thimont, Saniya Le Blanc. The impact of thermoelectric leg geometries on thermal resistance and power output. Journal of Applied Physics, American Institute of Physics, 2019, 126 (9), pp.095101. ⟨10.1063/1.5115044⟩. ⟨hal-02438186⟩

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