Improving the performance of thermoelectric generator via its geometric optimization


Global energy crisis due to rapid population increase and industrialization is among the main problems facing the globe. Presently, fossils fuels are the main source of energy for different application. Unfortunately, its pollution nature has compelled policymakers and various stakeholders to impose stringent mitigation regulations to curb carbon emissions. This has led to the development of alternative renewable sources of energy with very low carbon emissions.

Despite being a promising solution, development and utilization of renewable energy sources is currently facing numerous challenges such as underdeveloped energy conversion technologies and cost competitiveness.

Among the available energy conversion technologies, thermoelectric devices have attracted significant attention of researchers because they are generally capable of converting heat into electricity and vice versa. For instance, they have been used in developing thermoelectric generators. To this end, in order to ensure efficient operation of thermoelectric generators, understanding their characteristics and thermoelectric materials properties is highly desirable. Currently, thermoelectric generator modeling is widely used despite the existing challenges that hinder the accurate determination of their performance. For instance, several models: electrical, numerical and analytical have been developed. However, these models face various concerns such as nonlinearity effects that hider their accuracy. As such, researchers have been looking for alternative methods for lowering the cost and optimizing the design of multi-parameter based thermoelectric modules and have thus identified a one-dimensional mathematical thermoelectric generator model as a promising candidate.

To this note, a group of Xi’an Jiaotong University researchers: Dr. Hailong He, Prof. Yi Wu, Weiwei Liu, Prof. Mingzhe Rong, Zhenxuan Fang, and Prof. Xiaojun Tang reported newly developed one-dimensional simulation model. To ensure the accuracy and efficiency of their model, numerical solution methods in MATLAB was used to solve the derived differential equations. Also, the authors took into consideration the effects of various factors such as Seebeck and Peltier effects. Their research work is currently published in the journal, Energy Conversion and Management.

In brief, the research team explored the available thermoelectric generator models and further assessed the feasibility of developing an efficient algorithm for multi-parameter optimization. Analytical and numerical modeling for different components are adopted but coupled to solve regarding their constant or non-linear physical properties. Secondly, they developed the one-dimensional thermoelectric generator model taking into account the temperature and spatial dependent material properties. Additionally, they examined the effects of irreversible factors: heat leakages and contact resistance on the thermoelectric generator characteristics by analyzing the impact mechanism. Eventually, they too developed a hill-climbing algorithm for geometric optimization of thermoelectric generators and analyzed its advantages.

The authors observed a slight deviation in the output power as compared to that previously reported in a three-dimensional model, thus validating the accuracy of the developed model. Consequently, the maximum output power and the heat leakage through the occupied zone exhibited equivalent magnitude order. In addition, the negligible discrepancy was reported regarding the characteristics of the thermoelectric module and output performance. This was attributed to better linearity in the output power. In summary, the Xi’an Jiaotong University-based research team provided essential information that will advance the development of efficient models for enhancing the performance of the thermoelectric generator.

Improving the performance of thermoelectric generator via its geometric optimization - Advances in Engineering
Hybrid modeling of thermoelectric generator module and its geometric optimization.

About the author

Mingzhe Rong received the Bachelor, Master and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China, in 1984, 1987 and 1990 respectively. He was a visiting scholar in the University of Liverpool from 1994 to 1995 and also a visiting professor in the University of Southampton in 2001. Now he is the professor in the Dept of electrical engineering at Xi’an Jiatong University, Deputy director of State Key Lab of Electrical Insulation and Power Equipment, and also the vice-principal of Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Prof. Rong’s interests include the HVDC interruption technology and its applications, mathematical simulation for switchgears and software package development, and condition monitoring & fault diagnosis for switchgears. He has published more than 200 papers on IOP, IEEE Trans, IET, IEICE, and Proceedings of the Chinese Society for Electrical Engineering and other journals, authorized invention patents more than 60 items and won 4 items of the National Science and Technology Awards of China.

He is the Chief Scientist of National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program), Principal Investigator of National Natural Science Fund for Creative Research Groups, IET Fellow and Vice Chair man of IET Xi’an Branch. He is also the winner of National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars and Yangtze river scholars Distinguished Professor of Ministry of Education of China. He has acted as the (Vice) Chairman in international conferences for 5 times including IECPE-ST, IS-EMD, GD et al.

About the author

Yi Wu was born in 1975 in Jiangsu Province of China. He had learned the electrical engineering and got his PHD in 2006 from Xi’an Jiaotong University. From 2009 to 2010, he worked on the post doctor position for Delixi Corporation. Now he is a Professor in the School of Electric Engineering of Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Prof. Wu’s research has been centered on the electric arc plasma, DC short current interruption mechanism and new energy conversion technologies. He continues to explore new methods and theories on switch arc discharge, arc plasma properties, non-equilibrium plasma and analysis of breakdown in hot gas, arc characteristics controlling and high DC current interruption. He has 92 peer-reviewed papers published in international journals including J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys, IEEE Trans. on Plasma Sci., IEEE Trans. on Power Del. etc. (1 ESI paper of these).

He is also the editorial board member of Plasma Science and Technology, Scientific Committee member of GD Conference and member of CIGRE Working Group on DC switch technology. He has given 5 invited talks at international conferences organized by ICEPE, EMD, CICED, CZ Club, APCPST and 8 invited talks at seminars on the arc plasma or DC interruption to industries and international universities. He was awarded “The Second Prize of National Technical Invention”, ” First Prize of Natural Science of China’s Ministry of Education”, “First prize of technical invention in Shaanxi Province” and “The Excellent Talents of the New Century of the China’s Ministry of Education”.

About the author

Hailong He was born in Shaanxi Province, China, in 1987. He received the B.S. and Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University, China, in 2010 and 2015, respectively. He is now a research assistant in the Dept of electrical engineering at Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Dr. He’s research fields have been involved in the new energy conversion technologies and applications, fault current limitation in DC power systems. He has published 13 peer-reviewed papers in the international journals including Energ. Convers. Manage., IEEE Trans. Power Del., J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys., et al. He was awarded “First prize of technical invention in Shaanxi Province” in 2015.


He, H., Wu, Y., Liu, W., Rong, M., Fang, Z., & Tang, X. (2019). Comprehensive modeling for geometric optimization of a thermoelectric generator module. Energy Conversion and Management, 183, 645-659.

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