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1

Research Scholars, Centre for Energy Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

Abstract

Second law analysis fetched significance in analysing thermal energy systems as it locates

and quantifies the irreversibilities in the system. This paper analyses the thermoelectric

generator systems through exergy analysis. Four thermodynamic models for thermoelectric

generator considering internal and external irreversibilities were developed in the MATLAB

Simulink environment with temperature dependent material properties and analysed with

various operating temperatures. Analytical formulas for exergy efficiencies and

irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator for all thermodynamic models were derived.

The result shows that the exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator is higher than the

energy efficiency. For a typical operating condition in irreversible thermoelectric generator

with 31 thermocouples and with TH and TC of 453K and 303K respectively, the maximum

energy and exergy efficiency obtained are 4.23% and 12.78% at same optimum current of

7.02A. The result also shows that the effect of internal irreversibilities is more pronounced in

the performance of thermoelectric generator system when compared with the external

irreversibilities. The effects of irreversible heat transfer and contact resistance in the exergy

efficiency is also studied. This study will be helpful in designing the actual thermoelectric

generator systems.

Keywords: Exergy analysis, Thermoelectric generator, Irreversibilities, Exergy efficiency

___________________________

Corresponding Authors

S Manikandan and S C Kaushik

Email: *manikandan@ces.iitd.ac.in and **kaushik@ces.iitd.ac.in

Phone: +91-11-2659-6465/1253

___________________________

1

Nomenclature

A

Area (m2)

Subscript

Ex

Exergy (W)

Current (A)

Irr

Irreversibilities (W)

ce

Ceramic layer

en

Endoreversible TEG

Length (m)

ex

Exoreversible TEG

Generator

Heat (W)

gen

Generation

Electrical resistance ()

ir

Irreversible TEG

Entropy (W/K)

lost

Lost

Temperature (K)

Mean temperature

n type material

(W/m2K)

V

Voltage (V)

Environment

out

Output

p type material

Total

Greek

letters

Energy efficiency

Ideal TEG

Difference

Exergy efficiency

1. Introduction

Thermoelectric devices are solid state direct energy conversion devices for converting heat

into electricity and vice versa [1-4]. It operates on the combination of Seebeck, Peltier and

Thomson effects. Thermoelectric generator works as a heat engine operating between the two

heat reservoirs as shown in Figure 1 but its actual energy efficiency is lower than the ideal

Carnot efficiency because of the irreversibilities induced by the electrical, thermal and the

thermoelectric properties of the thermoelectric materials. Thermoelectric devices have

numerous advantages of being solid state device with no moving parts and require no

maintenance. It provides noiseless operation and offers light weight, compactness and hence

occupies small space [5].

The thermoelectric devices have better efficiencies at lower power levels compared with

conventional thermodynamic devices for power generation and space conditioning.

Therefore, the thermoelectric devices are best suited for low power applications [6]. The

power output of single thermoelectric couple is low and it can be increased to required level

by adding several thermoelectric couples in series-parallel combination.

The efficiency of the thermoelectric devices depends on electrical conductivity (), thermal

conductivity (k), and seebeck coefficient () of the thermoelectric material. The combination

of these material properties of a thermoelectric material is defined as figure of merit (FOM)

Rowe [3]. It has the unit of (1/K) as shown in Equation (1). FOM is often defined as

dimensionless figure of merit by multiplying it with mean operating temperature (Tm).

ZTm

(1)

2

T

k m

Where, Tm

(2)

TH TC

2

To understand the reversible and irreversible effects in thermoelectric systems, one can

classify them thermodynamically into four categories based on the irreversibilities in the

system such as ideal (or) reversible system, exoreversible system, endoreversible system, and

irreversible system as shown in Figure 2. Any thermoelectric systems always have internal

irreversibilities because of the intrinsic material properties. Super conductors have very low

electrical resistivity but its electrical/thermal conductivity is high, and its seebeck coefficient

is also very small so its figure of merit will be very low and hence they may not be potential

thermoelectric materials. Therefore, the term ideal thermoelectric system may not be

thermodynamically possible. However, in this study the authors studied four thermodynamic

models of thermoelectric generator system, so that the internal and external irreversibilities in

the system can be easily identified/ differentiated and can be quantified. So the exergy

analysis of thermoelectric generator can be done without any complexity.

Cvahtet and Strnad [7] thermodynamically analysed the ideal thermoelectric heat engine and

heat pump and compared it with the actual systems. Nuwayhid et al. [8] have analysed the

thermoelectric generator system based on entropy generation minimization method. Sharma

et al. [9] have done exergy analysis on single and multi stage exoreversible thermoelectric

cooling system and stated that the exergy efficiency is lower than the energy efficiency.

Tipsaenporm er al. [10] have done thermodynamic analysis in thermoelectric cooler and

found out second law efficiency is less than the energy efficiency.

Exergy analysis provides the true measure of efficiency since it take into considerations of

first and second law of thermodynamics. With this technique one can pin point where the

actual exergy destruction is taking place in the system so that the avoidable exergy losses can

be reduced by taking corrective actions [11-15].

From the literature survey, it is found that exergy analysis in thermoelectric generator

systems is not done and the effect of contact resistance and irreversible heat transfer in

exergy efficiency is also not been studied. Therefore, we intended to fill these gaps in the

present paper.

2. Thermodynamic Modelling of Thermoelectric Generator Systems

The thermodynamic models of the thermoelectric generator system were modelled in

MATLAB Simulink environment. The detailed thermodynamic modelling of thermoelectric

generator is discussed in detail in following sub sections.

2.1. Exergy Analysis

Consider the heat engine shown in Figure 1(a) then by the first law of thermodynamics the

energy balance can be given as follows [14]

QH QC Pout

(3)

5

(4)

or

S gen

QH QC

0

TH TC

(5)

Combining first and second law of thermodynamics, the exergy balance in any

thermodynamic system at steady state can be given as

Exin Exout Irreversibilities Exlost

(6)

In the above equation, Exin is exergy input to the system, Exout is the exergy output of the

system, Exlost is the exergy lost in the output stream (if present) and Irreversibilities are the

exergy destroyed in the process. The exergy lost have two quantities, which are recoverable

exergy waste and non recoverable exergy waste. In the thermoelectric system we can classify

the irreversibilities into two categories, which are internal and external irreversibilities as

discussed in Section 2.2.

The exergy input to the system is the thermal exergy (EQh). The exergy output is the electrical

power which is (Pout) and it is 100% exergy. Whereas EQh is defined as follows

T

EQh QH 1 o

TH

(7)

T

T

QH 1 o Pout Irr QC 1 o

TH

TC

Irr QC

(8)

To

T

QH o QC QH Pout

TC

TH

(9)

Q Q

Irr To C H

TC TH

(10)

6

Irr To S gen

(11)

Therefore, it is clear that the irreversibilities in the system are dependent on the

environmental temperature. In the thermoelectric generator system, cold side temperature TC

is the environment temperature To. Then the exergy efficiency can be defined as

TS

Exergy Out Pout

1 C gen

Exergy in

EQh

EQh

(12)

Therefore, by knowing the irreversibilities in the system one can find the exergy efficiency of

a thermoelectric system. This procedure is followed by the authors in finding the

irreversibilities in all four thermodynamic models of thermoelectric generator systems.

The temperature dependent properties of thermoelectric material used in this study are given

below as provided by Xuan et.al. [16].

(13)

(14)

(15)

generator systems that are as follows:

There is no other mode of heat transfer from the hot junction to cold junction of the

thermoelectric generator other than the Fouriers heat conduction phenomena by the

inherent thermal conductivity of thermoelectric materials.

The block diagram of irreversible thermoelectric generator is shown in Figure 1(b). Number

of thermocouples in a thermoelectric system (n) is 31 and all the thermocouples are

connected electrically series.

The ideal thermoelectric generator system is one which does not possess internal and external

irreversibilities.

Therefore, by first law of thermodynamics the energy balance at hot and cold junction of

ideal thermoelectric generator is given as follows

QH n IT1

(16)

QC n IT2

(17)

In case of the ideal thermodynamic system the heat source temperature and hot junction

temperature are same (TH = T1) and the heat sink temperature and cold junction temperature

are same (TC = T2). For the ideal thermoelectric generator entropy generation Sgen is zero.

By substituting Equations (16) and (17) in (10), the irreversibilities in the ideal thermoelectric

generator can be derived and written as

n ITC n ITH

Irr To

0

TH

TC

(18)

Then the first law efficiency (energy efficiency) and the second law efficiency (exergy

efficiency) of ideal thermoelectric generator can be written as

I ,g

Pout I TH TC TH TC

QH

ITH

TH

I ,g

I ,g

(19)

n I TH TC

Exout Pout

TH TC

Exin EQh

T

T

n ITH 1 o TH 1 o

TH

TH

I , g

TC

1

TH

100%

(20)

(21)

It can be seen from the Equations (19) that, the Carnot efficiency is the limit of energy

efficiency in the ideal thermoelectric generator. It can also be noted that the ideal efficiency

8

of thermoelectric system is only the function of temperatures and not dependent on the

material property and it can be greater than 100%.

The exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator is also the function of the junction

temperature only and not dependent on the material properties. The exergy efficiency of

thermoelectric generator for ideal thermodynamic conditions is 100% and this is the highest

limit of efficiency of any hypothetical thermoelectric generator. It should be noted that the

power output of the thermoelectric generator is a function of material property () only.

Seebeck effect is a reversible phenomenon therefore, the irreversibilities in the ideal

thermoelectric system is zero.

2.2.2. Endoreversible Thermoelectric Generator System

The endoreversible thermodynamic system is one which is internally reversible and

externally irreversible. Therefore, in the endoreversible thermoelectric system the internal

irreversibilities are absent but the external irreversibilities due to irreversible heat transfer at

hot and cold sides of thermoelectric generator is present.

Therefore, by first law of thermodynamics, the energy balance at hot and cold junction of

endoreversible thermoelectric generator can be given as follows

QH n IT1

(22)

QC n IT2

(23)

In the endoreversible thermoelectric generator the external irreversibilities are caused by the

irreversible heat transfer because of the finite thermal resistance of the ceramic layer, which

is used as the electrical insulator at the hot and cold junctions. Therefore, the heat transfer

from the hot and the cold junction QH and QC also can be written as follows:

QH U h Ah (TH T1 )

(24)

QC U c Ac (T2 TC )

(25)

In case of the endoreversible thermodynamic system, heat source temperature is TH, the hot

junction temperature is T1, the heat sink temperature is TC and the cold junction temperature

is T2. The actual hot junction and cold junction temperature of the endoreversible

9

and (23) in Equations (24) and (25) and it can be written as follows.

T1

U h AhTH

U h Ah n I

(26)

T2

U c AcTC

U c Ac n I

(27)

By solving the above equation for constant TH and TC, we get T1<TH and T2>TC. From

Equation (6) the exergy output of the endoreversible thermoelectric generator system can be

calculated. The irreversibilities in the endoreversible thermoelectric generator system can be

calculated from Equation (10) and it is finite and non zero. The entropy generation Sgen can

be calculated as per the entropy balance obtained from the second law of thermodynamics in

the endoreversible thermoelectric generator systems.

n IT2 n IT1

I (TH T2 TT

1 C)

Irr To

n

0

T

T

T

H

(28)

Therefore, the first law efficiency and the second law efficiency of the endoreversible

thermoelectric generator can be given as

en , g

Pout n I T1 T2 T1 T2

QH

n IT1

T1

(29)

In the endoreversible thermoelectric generator the power input Pout can be given as follows

Pout QH QC n I (T1 T2 )

(30)

en, g

en , g

TS

Exout Pout EQh I

1 C gen

Exin EQh

EQh

EQh

T2TH T1TC

n I

TH

EQh

(31)

(32)

10

en, g

T1 T2

T

1 en, g

TH TC I , g

TH

(33)

It can be seen from the Equation (29) that the COP of the endoreversible thermoelectric

generator is lower than the ideal thermoelectric generator since T1 <TH and T2 > TC. It is also

to be noted that the irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator is finite and caused

because of the irreversible heat transfer in the system. Therefore, the irreversibilities in the

endoreversible thermoelectric system can be called as external irreversibilities. The external

irreversibility can be reduced by reducing the thermal resistances at hot and cold side of

thermoelectric generator. The exergy efficiency of endoreversible thermoelectric generator is

less than the ideal case because of added irreversibilities in the system.

2.2.3. Exoreversible Thermoelectric Generator System

The exoreversible thermodynamic system is one which is externally reversible and internally

irreversible. Therefore, in the exoreversible thermoelectric system the internal irreversibilities

due to the material properties and the contact resistance between the metal and the

thermocouple are present but the external irreversibilities due to irreversible heat transfer is

absent.

Therefore, by first law of thermodynamics, the energy balance at hot and cold junction of

exoreversible thermoelectric generator is given as follows

I 2R

QH n IT1

K (T1 T2 )

2

(34)

I 2R

QC n IT2

K (T1 T2 )

2

(35)

In case of the exoreversible thermodynamic system, heat source temperature and the hot

junction temperature are same (TH = T1), and the heat sink temperature and the cold junction

temperature are same (TC = T2).

The thermal conductance (K) of the thermocouple in exoreversible and irreversible

thermoelectric generator is defined as

11

k A k A

K n n p p K conducting meteal

Lp

Ln

(36)

For the exoreversible and irreversible thermoelectric generator, the electrical resistance of

thermocouple (R) is defined as

L L

R n n p p Rcontact Rconducting

Ap

An

(37)

metal

In the exoreversible thermoelectric generator, the overall heat transfer coefficient between the

heat source and cold junction and between the heat sink and hot junction of the

thermoelectric generator is infinity as given by Equation (38). Therefore, the thermal

resistance between the heat source and the cold junction and the thermal resistance between

the heat sink and the hot junction of the thermoelectric generator is zero.

U c Ac U h Ah

(38)

From Equation (6) the exergy output of the exoreversible thermoelectric generator system can

be calculated. The irreversibilities in the exoreversible thermoelectric generator system can

be calculated from Equation (10) and it is finite and non zero because of the thermoelectric

material properties and the contact resistance. The entropy generation Sgen can be calculated

as per the entropy balance obtained by the second law of thermodynamics.

ITC I 2 R K (TH TC ) ITH I 2 R K (TH TC )

Irr nTo

0

2TC

TC

2TH

TH

TH

TC

(39)

I 2 RTm K (TH TC )2

Irr nTo

0

TH TC

TH TC

(40)

Pout I (TH TC ) I 2 R

(41)

Then the optimum current for maximum power output (Ipout) can be given as

I pout

(TH TC )

(42)

2R

12

Then the first law efficiency and the second law efficiency of the exoreversible

thermoelectric generator can be given as

ex , g

n I TH TC I 2 R

Pout

QH

I 2R

n ITH

K (TH TC )

2

ex, g

ex , g

(43)

TS

Exout Pout EQh I

1 C gen

Exin EQh

EQh

EQh

(44)

I 2 RTm K (TH TC ) 2

TH

TH

T

QH 1 C

TH

ex , g

(45)

n I TH TC I 2 R

T

ITH 1 C

TH

I 2 R TC

1

2

TH

TC

K (TH TC ) 1

TH

(46)

differentiating the above equation with respect to current I, thus the optimum current of

exoreversible thermoelectric generator at maximum exergy efficiency is obtained as given

below

I exergy

(TH TC )

R (1 1 Tm Z )

I energy

(47)

The above equation is same as the equation for optimum current at maximum energy

efficiency (Ienergy). Therefore, the exergy efficiency and energy efficiency will be maximum

at same current (Ienergy).

Then by substituting Iexergy in Equation 46, the maximum exergy efficiency of thermoelectric

generator is derived by the authors as given in Equation 48. This equation is same as the

exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator given by Wisniewski et al. [17].

13

ex , g

T T

H C

TH

1 ZTm 1

T

C 1 ZTm

T

H

T

H

H TC

1 ZTm 1

T

C 1 ZTm

TH

(48)

It can be seen from Equation (48) that the exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator is

less than the endoreversible case and it is a function of material properties and the junction

temperatures.

2.2.4. Irreversible Thermoelectric Generator System

The irreversible thermodynamic system is one which is internally and externally irreversible.

Therefore, in the irreversible thermoelectric system the internal irreversibilities due to the

material properties and the contact resistance between the metal and the thermocouple are

present with the external irreversibilities caused by the irreversible heat transfer between the

heat source and cold junction and between the heat sink and hot junction. Therefore, the

irreversible thermoelectric generator is the closer approximation of the actual thermoelectric

generator system.

By the first law of thermodynamics, the energy balance at hot and cold junction of

irreversible thermoelectric generator is given as follows

I 2R

QH n IT1

K (T1 T2 )

2

(49)

I 2R

QC n IT2

K (T1 T2 )

2

(50)

The heat flow from the hot and the cold junctions (QH and QC) in irreversible thermoelectric

generator can also be written as follows

QH U h Ah (T1 TH )

(51)

QC U c Ac (TC T2 )

(52)

By solving the Equations (49), (50), (51) and (52) for the hot (T1) and cold junction (T2)

temperatures of irreversible thermoelectric generator, the expression for T1 and T2 can be

written as follows as derived by the authors

14

T1

nK AcU c n I AhU h nK n I n 2 K 2

(53)

T2

2

2

nK AcU c n I AhU h nK n I n K

(54)

In case of the irreversible thermodynamic system, heat sink temperature and the hot junction

temperature are different (TH > T1) and the heat source temperature and the cold junction

temperature are different (TC < T2).

In the irreversible thermoelectric generator, the heat transfer coefficient between the heat

source and the cold junction is finite because of the finite thermal conductivity of the ceramic

layer as given by Equation (55). The value of Uc and Uh is assumed as 170W/m2K as given

by Chen et al. [17].

U c Ac

kce Ac

Lce

(55)

where, kce is the thermal conductivity of the ceramic layer. The heat transfer coefficient

between the hot junction and the heat sink (UhAh) also follows the same notation of Equation

(55).

From Equation (6) the exergy output of the irreversible thermoelectric generator can be

calculated. The irreversibilities in the system can be calculated from Equation (10) and it is

finite and non zero. The entropy generation Sgen can be calculated as per the entropy balance

obtained by the second law of thermodynamics.

IT2 I 2 R K (T1 T2 ) IT1 I 2 R K (T1 T2 )

Irr nTo

0

2TC

TC

2TH

TH

TH

TC

(56)

I (TH T2 TT

I 2 RTm K (TH TC )(T1 T2 )

1 C)

Irr nTo

0

TH TC

TH TC

TH TC

(57)

Pout I (T1 T2 ) I 2 R

(58)

15

Then the optimum current for maximum power output (Ipout) for irreversible thermoelectric

generator can be given as

I pout

(T1 T2 )

(59)

2R

Therefore, the first law efficiency and the second law efficiency of the irreversible

thermoelectric generator can be given as

ir , g

n I T1 T2 I 2 R

Pout

QH

I 2R

n IT1

K (T1 T2 )

2

ir , g

ir , g

(60)

TS

Exout Pout EQh I

1 C gen

Exin EQh

EQh

EQh

(61)

I TH TC I 2 R

1

I (T T T T ) I 2 RT

K (TH TC )(T1 T2 )

2 H

1 C

m

TH

TH

TH

(62)

And by simplifying the above equation we get the exergy efficiency of irreversible

thermoelectric generator as follows

ir , g

I (T1 T2 ) I 2 R

T

IT1 1 C

TH

I 2 R TC

1

2

TH

TC

K (T1 T2 ) 1

TH

(63)

(Iexergy) can be obtained by differentiating the above equation with respect to current I, thus

the optimum current in the irreversible thermoelectric generator at maximum exergy

efficiency can be given below as derived by the authors

I exergy

(T1 T2 )

(64)

R(1 1 Tm Z )

The above equation is same as the equation for optimum current at maximum energy

efficiency (Ienergy) for irreversible thermoelectric generator but the mean temperature (Tm) is

16

the mean of T1 and T2. Therefore, the exergy efficiency and energy efficiency of irreversible

thermoelectric generator is maximum at same current (Ienergy = Iexergy).

Then by substituting Iexergy in Equation (63), the maximum exergy efficiency of irreversible

thermoelectric generator can be written as derived by the authors is as follows. Note that ir,hp

is the maximum energy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator.

ir , g

T T 1 ZT 1

m

1 2

T1 T2 1 ZT

m

T

T

H

H TC

ir , g

I ,g

(65)

It can be seen from Equation (65) that the exergy efficiency of the irreversible thermoelectric

generator is less than the ideal, endoreversible and exoreversible thermodynamic case and it

is a function of material properties, junction temperatures and the heat source and heat sink

temperatures. This expression for the exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator may

closely approximate the actual exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator.

3. Results and Discussion

The energy and exergy analysis of the thermoelectric generator systems for all possible

thermodynamic models have been carried out for various operating conditions in MATLAB

Simulink environment.

The thermodynamic models of thermoelectric generator explained in section 2.2 were

analysed with fixed hot and cold junction temperatures. The cold side temperature (TC) is

fixed at 303K in all the cases and the hot side temperature (TH) is fixed at 453K, 428K and

403K to calculate the performance parameters. Tg is the temperature difference between the

hot and cold side of the thermoelectric generator.

17

The power output of the ideal and endoreversible thermoelectric generator increases linearly

because the internal irreversibilities are absent in these cases. These two cases will be

impractical because the thermal and electrical resistance of thermoelectric material is finite

and non zero.

The power output of the exoreversible thermoelectric generator is shown in Figure 3 for

different Tg with fixed TC of 303K. The figure shows that the there is an optimum power

output for a particular Tg. The optimum current at maximum power can be calculated from

Equation (42). There is an optimum power output because the effect of nonlinear Joule

heating is more prominent at higher currents than Ipout. For a typical operating condition for

Tg of 150K in exoreversible thermoelectric generator the optimum power output occurs at

Ipout of 10.1 A.

18

The power output of the irreversible thermoelectric generator for different Tg with fixed TC

of 303K is presented in Figure 4. The power output of irreversible thermoelectric generator is

less than the exoreversible thermoelectric generator. This is because the hot junction

temperature T1 is lower than heat source temperature TH and the cold junction temperature T2

is higher than the heat sink temperature TC, thereby lowering the effective temperature

difference between the hot and cold junction of irreversible thermoelectric generator (T1-T2 <

TH-TC). It also shows that the current at optimum power is less than the exoreversible case.

For a typical operating condition for Tg of 150K in irreversible thermoelectric generator the

optimum power output occurs at Ipout of 7.8A

19

The energy efficiency of thermoelectric generator for the ideal case is dependent on the

temperature only as stated by Carnot theorem and it is well known. In the ideal case of

thermoelectric generator the energy efficiency is constant for all currents. The energy

efficiency of endoreversible thermoelectric generator decreases with increase in current. The

energy efficiency of exoreversible thermoelectric generator is lower than the endoreversible

case because of the internal irreversibilities induced by thermal and electrical properties of

thermoelectric materials. The energy efficiency of the exoreversible thermoelectric generator

is maximum at optimum current Ienergy. The energy efficiency of exoreversible thermoelectric

generator is maximum at Ienergy of 8.6A for Tg of 150K.

20

The energy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator is presented in Figure 6. It

shows that the energy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator is less than the

exoreversible case. The current at optimum energy efficiency for Tg of 150K is 6.8A and it

is lower than the exoreversible case. This is because of the lower temperature differential

between the hot and cold junction of irreversible thermoelectric generator compared with

exoreversible thermoelectric generator (T1-T2 < TH-TC). Lower temperature differential is

because of irreversible heat transfer between the hot junction and heat sink and between cold

junction and heat source of thermoelectric generator.

21

Exergy analysis gives the true efficiency of the thermal energy system since it consider

second law of thermodynamics combined with first law of thermodynamics to analyse the

thermal energy systems. The exergy analysis in all four thermodynamic models of

thermoelectric generator can give the complete picture of external and internal

irreversibilities occurring in the system.

The exergy efficiency of ideal thermoelectric generator is 100% since internal and external

irreversibilities are absent in ideal thermodynamic systems. The exergy efficiency of

exoreversible thermoelectric generator is shown in Figure 7. This shows the exergy efficiency

of thermoelectric generator is higher than the energy efficiency because of the loss of exergy

due to internal irreversibilities. The energy and exergy efficiency has its maximum at Iexergy as

seen from Equation (47). It also shows that the exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator

increases with increase in Tg but the increment is very low. This is because the exergy input

(thermal exergy) decreases with decrease in TH as shown in Equation 7 and 34.

22

The exergy efficiency of the irreversible thermoelectric generator is presented in Figure 8. It

shows that the exergy efficiency of the irreversible thermoelectric generator is less than the

exoreversible case. This is because of added external irreversibilities with the internal

irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator system. This figure shows that the maximum

energy efficiency and maximum exergy efficiency occurs at same current.

The exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator is higher than the energy efficiency. This

can only be observed/ explained by the exergy analysis and not on the basis of energy

analysis. The exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator is high since it uses low exergy

heat source (low temperature heat source) as the input. This makes the thermoelectric

generator superior than other conventional power convertors. The greatest advantage of

thermoelectric power generator compared with other power generators is it can utilize low

grade waste heat to produce work output with comparable exergy efficiency.

23

The irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator system for constant Tg of 150K for

different thermodynamic cases are presented in the Figure 9. It shows that the irreversibilities

in the irreversible thermoelectric generator system are higher than the exoreversible case

which is higher than the endoreversible case. It is also clear from the Figure 9 that the internal

irreversibilities are high when compared with the external irreversibilities. With the help of

the method presented in this paper, one can quantify the internal and external irreversibilities

in the thermoelectric generator systems.

The internal irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator systems cannot be controlled by

external means, but the external irreversibilities can be controlled by decreasing the overall

thermal resistances at hot and cold junction of thermoelectric generator. The internal

irreversibilities can only be reduced by increasing FOM of the thermoelectric material and

also by reducing the contact resistances.

24

Fig.10. Power output and exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator for variable heat

transfer area

The effect of irreversible heat transfer at the hot and cold side of the thermoelectric generator

in the exergy efficiency is also studied and it is presented in Figure 10. It shows that the

decrease in the total external heat transfer area decreases the power output and maximum

exergy efficiency because it decreases the hot junction temperature and increases the cold

junction temperature thereby decreases the effective temperature difference (T1-T2) between

the hot and cold junction of the thermoelectric generator and thus reduces the power output

and the exergy efficiency. It also shows that the exoreversible case is the maximum limit of

power output and efficiency in any actual thermoelectric generator system.

25

The irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator for different heat transfer area are shown

in Figure 11. It shows that the irreversibilities decreases with decrease in heat transfer area.

This may leads to wrong conclusion about the irreversibilities occurring in the thermoelectric

generator system. The decrease in irreversibilities is because when the heat transfer area

decreases the effective temperature difference (T1-T2) between the hot and cold junction of

the thermoelectric generator also reduces. This reduces the effective heat input QH needed to

the thermoelectric generator and hence the irreversibilities, but if we consider the ratio of

irreversibilities to the heat input, it becomes clear that the percentage of irreversibilities

increases if the heat transfer area decreases and the exoreversible case have lesser

irreversibilities. This is shown in Figure 12.

26

area

The dimensionless irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator for different heat transfer

area are shown in Figure 12. It shows that the decrease in heat transfer area increases the

irreversibilities in thermoelectric generator and the irreversibilities in the exoreversible

thermoelectric generator is lower than the other cases. This makes the exergy efficiency of

exoreversible thermoelectric generator higher than the irreversible cases.

27

Fig.13. Power output and exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator for variable contact

resistance

The effect of contact resistance Rcontact between the thermoelectric couples and metal contact

in the exergy efficiency has been studied since it is one of the important parameter affecting

the heating power and efficiency of the thermoelectric devices. Figure 13 shows the effect of

contact resistance in the generator power output and exergy efficiency and it shows increase

in contact resistance decreases the exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator.

28

The irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator for different contact resistance are shown

in Figure 14. It shows that the increase in contact resistance increases the internal

irreversibilities in thermoelectric generator.

It can be seen from Figure 12 and 14 that the decrease in heat transfer area and increase in

contact resistance increases the irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator systems. It is

also proved that at higher currents the effect of contact resistance is more in the performance

than the irreversible heat transfer because the irreversibilities are more with the increase in

contact resistance. Therefore, care must be taken during the assembling/designing of the

thermoelectric generator systems.

The internal irreversibilities in the thermoelectric generator system is very high compared to

the external irreversibilities and once the thermoelectric material with higher FOM is found

then the energy/exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator can be made higher and this

will be possible in near future. Table 1 aggregates the results obtained in this study for a

typical operating condition.

29

thermoelectric generator for Tg of 150K

Sl.

Performance parameters

No

Exoreversible

Irreversible

thermoelectric

thermoelectric

generator

generator

5.16%

4.23%

16.60 %

12.78 %

ICOP, Iexergy

8.6 A

6.8 A

Ipout

10.1 A

7.8 A

10.70 W

7.08 W

efficiency

6

10.94 W

7.18 W

Irreversibilities at maximum

58 W

48.32 W

60.5 W

50 W

energy/exergy efficiency

8

Irreversibilities at maximum

power output

Table 1 show that the irreversibilities in the exoreversible thermoelectric generator are higher

than the irreversible case. The actual reason for the same is explained with the help of Figure

11 and 12 in the text. The exergy efficiency of the thermoelectric generator system for typical

operating conditions obtained in this study is compared with the exergy efficiency of solar

photovoltaic generator as per the data available from Sahin et al. [19]. It shows that the

exergy efficiency of irreversible thermoelectric generator is almost same as the solar

photovoltaic generator. But the energy efficiency of thermoelectric generator is very low

when compared with the crystalline silicon solar cells. Therefore, the freely available solar

heat can also be used to generate electrical energy (exergy) by using solar thermoelectric

30

generator considering the economics, land requirements, temperature and other practical

aspects of the power generation systems.

4. Conclusions

Exergy analyses of all possible thermodynamic models of thermoelectric generator have been

carried out. This study provides complete details of the irreversibilities in the thermoelectric

generator system.

Analytical expressions for the exergy efficiency and irreversibilities in all possible

thermodynamic models of thermoelectric generator system have been derived.

The results show that the exergy efficiency of thermoelectric generator is higher than

the energy efficiency.

lower than the energy efficiency. e.g., In irreversible thermoelectric generator the

maximum energy efficiency is 4.23% and the maximum exergy efficiency is 12.78%

for the same operating temperatures.

The first law and second law efficiency of the exoreversible and irreversible

thermoelectric generator are maximum at same current. e.g., The first law and second

law efficiency of the irreversible thermoelectric generator is maximum at same

current of 6.8A.

The increase in total contact resistance decreases the exergy efficiency of the

thermoelectric generator.

The decrease in total external heat transfer area at hot and cold side of thermoelectric

generator decreases the exergy efficiency.

is more when compared with the external irreversibilities.

31

The above studies will be very helpful in designing of actual thermoelectric generator

systems and give better understanding about the thermodynamic modelling,

irreversibilities and entropy generation in the thermoelectric generator systems.

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