Thermoelectric Power Generator

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thermoelectric power generator

[¦thər·mō·i′lek·trik ′pau̇·ər ‚jen·ə‚rād·ər]

Thermoelectric Power Generator


a device for the direct conversion of thermal energy into electric power using the Seebeck effect.

The components of a thermoelectric power generator are thermopiles, which consist of semiconductor thermal converters connected in series or parallel, and heat exchangers for the hot and cold junctions of the thermal converters. A distinction is made among thermoelectric power generators operating at low, medium, and high temperatures, with temperature ranges of 20°–300°, 300°–600°, and 600°–1000°C, respectively. The thermal converters of low- and medium-temperature generators are made of solid solutions of chalcogens of elements of groups V and VI, respectively, in Mendeleev’s periodic system, and those of high-temperature generators are made of solid Si-Ge solutions. Thermoelectric power generators may be of the space, marine, or ground types, depending on their areas of use, and they may use isotopes, solar energy, or natural gas as their heat source. The efficiency of the best thermoelectric power generators is ~15 percent, and the power output reaches several hundred kilowatts.

Thermoelectric power generators have a number of advantages relative to such electromechanical energy converters as turbine generators—for example, lack of moving parts, high reliability, and simplicity of servicing. Generators of this type are used to supply power to remote and inaccessible electrical devices, such as automatic beacons, navigational buoys, weather stations, active relay stations, spacecraft, and cathodic protection stations of natural-gas and petroleum pipelines.

The disadvantages of present-day thermoelectric power generators include low efficiency and relatively high cost.


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