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Thermoelectrics: Direct solar thermal energy conversion

: Tritt, T.; Böttner, H.; Chen, L.


MRS Bulletin 33 (2008), No.4, pp.366-368
ISSN: 0883-7694
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IPM ()
thermoelectric; energy conversion; thermoelectric material

The field of thermoelectricity began in the early 1800s with the discovery of the thermoelectric effect by Thomas Seebeck. Seebeck found that, when the junctions of two dissimilar materials are held at different temperatures (ΔT), a voltage (V) is generated that is proportional to ΔT. The proportionality constant is the Seebeck coeffcient or thermopower: α = −δV/ΔT. When the circuit is closed, this couple allows for direct conversion of thermal energy (heat) to electrical energy. The conversion effciency, ηTE, is related to a quantity called the fgure of merit, ZT, that is determined by three main material parameters: the thermopower α, the electrical resistivity ρ, and the thermal conductivity κ.