In thermoelectric generators, the heat sources are usually fluids or flames. To simplify the co-design and co-optimization of the fluid or combustion system and the thermoelectric device, which are crucial for maximizing the system performance, a three-dimensional thermoelectric generator model is proposed and implemented in a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation environment (FLUENT). This model of the thermoelectric power source accounts for all temperature dependent characteristics of the materials, and includes nonlinear fluid-thermal-electric multi-physics coupled effects. In solid regions, the heat conduction equation is solved with ohmic heating and thermoelectric source terms, and user defined scalars are used to determine the electric field produced by the Seebeck potential and electric current throughout the thermoelements. The current is solved in terms of the load value using user defined functions but not a prescribed parameter, and thus the field-circuit coupled effect is included. The model is validated by simulation data from other models and experimental data from real thermoelectric devices. Within the common CFD simulator FLUENT, the thermoelectric model can be connected to various CFD models of heat sources as a continuum domain to predict and optimize the system performance.
International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer – Elsevier
Published: Jan 15, 2011
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