A design approach for integrating thermoelectric devices using topology optimization

Stefano Soprani, Jan Hendrik Klaas Haertel, Boyan Stefanov Lazarov, Ole Sigmund, Kurt Engelbrecht

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Abstract

Efficient operation of thermoelectric devices strongly relies on the thermal integration into the energy conversion system in which they operate. Effective thermal integration reduces the temperature differences between the thermoelectric module and its thermal reservoirs, allowing the system to operate more efficiently. This work proposes and experimentally demonstrates a topology optimization approach as a design tool for efficient integration of thermoelectric modules into systems with specific design constraints. The approach allows thermal layout optimization of thermoelectric systems for different operating conditions and objective functions, such as temperature span, efficiency, and power recoveryrate. As a specific application, the integration of a thermoelectric cooler into the electronics section ofa downhole oil well intervention tool is investigated, with the objective of minimizing the temperatureof the cooled electronics. Several challenges are addressed: ensuring effective heat transfer from the load, minimizing the thermal resistances within the integrated system, maximizing the thermal protection ofthe cooled zone, and enhancing the conduction of the rejected heat to the oil well. The design method incorporates temperature dependent properties of the thermoelectric device and other materials. The3D topology optimization model developed in this work was used to design a thermoelectric system, complete with insulation and heat sink, that was produced and tested. Good agreement between experimental results and model forecasts was obtained and the system was able to maintain the load at more than 33 K below the oil well temperature. Results of this study support topology optimizationas a powerful design tool for thermal design of thermoelectric systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Energy
Volume176
Pages (from-to)49–64
ISSN0306-2619
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Topology optimization
  • Thermoelectric devices
  • Thermoelectric cooling
  • System integration
  • Thermal management
  • Downhole electronics cooling

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