Thermoelectric generators (also known as Seebeck generators) are devices that convert heat (temperature differences) directly into electrical energy, using a phenomenon called the "Seebeck Effect" . Their typical efficiencies are around 5–8%. . These are solid-state devices have no moving parts, with the exception of a few designs with fans or pumps.
Thermoelectric generators, or TEGs, are devices that utilize one or more thermoelectric modules as the primary component/s, followed by a cooling system that can be either passive or active: such as an open air heat sink, fan cooled heat sink, or fluid cooled. These components are then fabricated into an assembly to function as one unit called a TEG.
When heat is applied to the hot side of a Thermoelectric Generator, electricity is produced. Almost any heat source can be used to generate electricity, such as solar heat, geothermal heat, even body heat. In addition the efficiency of any device or machine that generates heat as a by-product can be drastically improved by recovering the energy lost as heat.
What is a thermoelectric module?
Thermoelectric modules are solid-state integrated circuits that employ three established thermoelectric effects known as the Peltier, Seebeck and Thomson effects. It is the Seebeck effect that is responsible for electrical power generation and thus the foundation of our business. The thermoelectric module is the heart of a thermoelectric generator.
How are thermoelectric modules made?
Their construction consists of pairs of p-type and n-type semiconductor materials with a high thermoelectric coefficient. Although many different materials can be used a bismuth telluride alloy is the most common material in use today. This material is sliced into small blocks, one forms the p-type conductor and the other the n-type conductor. Each pair forms a thermoelectric couple (TEC).
Most others use many thermoelectric couples that are sandwiched between two pieces of non-electrically conductive materials. It is also necessary for this material to be thermally conductive to ensure a good heat transfer, usually two thin ceramic wafers are used. This now forms what is called a thermoelectric module.
Now, if a thermoelectric module is being manufactured for use in a thermoelectric generator (TEG) it has its own unique requirements. First they need to have lowest internal resistance possible and high temperature silver solder connecting the wires. In addition, heat resistant insulation made from PTFE is used to coat the wires. Braided fiberglass sleeves can also be slipped over the wires providing further protection from the high heat.
More information about Thermoelectric Generators (Wikipedia)
Videos of Thermoelectric Generators (YouTube)
Thermoelectric Generator Forums (TEGforums.com)
More information Web Sites about Thermoelectric Generators below:
Basics of Thermoelectric Generators
Thermoelectric Generator Definitions
Basic information on the Thermoelectric Generator
More information on the Thermoelectric Generator
Electricity from Heat Educational Page
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