Towards high efficiency segmented thermoelectric unicouples



Segmentation of thermoelectric (TE) materials is a widely used solution to improve the efficiency of thermoelectric generators over a wide working temperature range. However, the improvement can only be obtained with appropriate material selections. In this work, we provide an overview of the theoretical efficiency of the best performing unicouples designed from segmenting the state-of-the-art TE materials. The efficiencies are evaluated using a 1D numerical model which includes all thermoelectric effects, heat conduction, Joule effects and temperature dependent material properties, but neglects contact resistance and heat losses. The calculations are performed for a fixed cold side temperature of 300 K and different hot side temperatures of 700, 900, and 1100 K. We confirm that without taking into account the compatibility of TE materials, segmentation can even decrease the total efficiency. Choosing the TE materials carefully, one is, however, rewarded by a significant improvement in the total efficiency.