doi: 10.7873/DATE.2015.0516

Accurate Electrothermal Modeling of Thermoelectric Generators

Mohammad Javad Dousti1,a, Antonio Petraglia2 and Massoud Pedram1,b

1University of Southern California, USA.

2Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Thermoelectric generators (TEGs) provide a unique way for harvesting thermal energy. These devices are compact, durable, inexpensive, and scalable. Unfortunately, the conversion efficiency of TEGs is low. This requires careful design of energy harvesting systems including the interface circuitry between the TEG module and the load, with the purpose of minimizing power losses. In this paper, it is analytically shown that the traditional approach for estimating the internal resistance of TEGs may result in a significant loss of harvested power. This drawback comes from ignoring the dependence of the electrical behavior of TEGs on their thermal behavior. Accordingly, a systematic method for accurately determining the TEG input resistance is presented. Next, through a case study on automotive TEGs, it is shown that compared to prior art, more than 11% of power losses in the interface circuitry that lies between the TEG and the electrical load can be saved by the proposed modeling technique. In addition, it is demonstrated that the traditional approach would have resulted in a deviation from the target regulated voltage by as much as 59%.

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