Solar thermoelectric system for small scale power generation
This thesis is concerned with the design and evaluation of a small scale solarthermoelectric power generation system. The system is intended for electricity generation and thermal energy supply to small scale applications in developing countries of the sunny equatorial regions. Detailed design methodologies and evaluations of both the thermoelectric device and the solar energy collector, which are parts of the combined system, are presented. In addition to experimental evaluations, three theoretical models are presented which allow the design and evaluation of both the thermoelectric module and the solar energy collector. One of the models (a unified thermoelectric device model) concerns the geometrical optimization and performance prediction of a thermoelectric module in power generation mode. The model is unified in the sense that it accounts for the effect of all the parameters that contribute to the performance of the thermoelectric module, a number of which are ignored by the available design models. The unified model is used for a comparative evaluation of five thermoelectric modules. One of these is commercially available and the others are assumed to have optimum geometry but with different design parameters (thermal and electrical contact layer properties). The model has been validated using data from an experimental investigation undertaken to evaluate the commercial thermoelectric module in power generation mode. Results showed that though the commercially available thermoelectric cooling devices can be used for electricity generation, it is appropriate to have modules optimized specifically for power generation, and to improve the contact layers of thermoelement accordingly. Attempts have also been made to produce and evaluate thermoelectric materials using a simple melt-qucnching technique which produces materials with properties similar to those of the more expensive crystalline materials.