The unileg thermoelectric generator (U-TEG) is an increasingly popular concept in the design of thermoelectric generators (TEGs). In this study, an oxide U-TEG design for high-temperature applications is introduced. For the unicouple TEG design, Ca3Co4O9 and Al-doped ZnO are used as the p- and n-leg thermoelectric materials, respectively. For the U-TEG design, constantan and Ca3Co4O9 are employed as conductor and semiconductor, respectively. The reduced current approach (RCA) technique is used to design the unicouple TEG and U-TEG in order to obtain the optimal area ratio. When both the unicouple TEG and U-TEG were subjected to a heat flux of 20 W/cm2, the volumetric power density was 0.18 W/cm3 and 0.44 W/cm3, respectively. Thermal shorting between the hot and cold sides of the generator through the highly thermally conducting conductor, which is one of the major drawbacks of the U-TEG, is overcome by using the optimal area ratio for conductor and semiconductor given by the RCA. The results are further confirmed by finite-element analysis using COMSOL Multiphysics software. Furthermore, the U-TEG design is generalized by using an idealized metal with zero Seebeck coefficient. Even though the idealized metal has no impact on the power output of the U-TEG and all the power in the system is generated by the semiconductor, the U-TEG design succeeded in producing a higher volumetric power density than the unicouple TEG design.
Journal of Electronic Materials, 2015, Vol 44, Issue 6, p. 1834-1845
TEG; Thermal shorting; Thermoelectric; Thermoelectric generator; Unileg; Volumetric power density