The Universal Influence of Contact Resistance on the Efficiency of a Thermoelectric Generator

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Abstract

The influence of electrical and thermal contact resistance on the efficiency of a segmented thermoelectric generator is investigated. We consider 12 different segmented p-legs and 12 different segmented n-legs, using eight different p-type and eight different n-type thermoelectric materials. For all systems, a universal influence of both the electrical and thermal contact resistance is observed on the leg’s efficiency, when the systems are analyzed in terms of the contribution of the contact resistance to the total resistance of the leg. The results are compared with the analytical model of Min and Rowe. In order for the efficiency not to decrease by more than 20%, the contact electrical resistance should be less than 30% of the total leg resistance for zero thermal contact resistance, while the thermal contact resistance should be less than 20% for zero electrical contact resistance. The universal behavior also allowed the maximum tolerable contact resistance for a segmented system to be found, i.e., the resistance at which a leg of only the high-temperature thermoelectric material has the same efficiency as the segmented leg with a contact resistance at the interface. If, e.g., segmentation increases the efficiency by 30%, then an electrical contact resistance of 30% or a thermal contact resistance of 20% can be tolerated.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Electronic Materials
Volume44
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)2869-2876
Number of pages8
ISSN0361-5235
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Thermoelectrics
  • Segmentation
  • Efficiency
  • Contact resistance
  • Electrical resistance
  • Thermal resistance

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