Part of the book: Small-Scale Energy Harvesting
Thermoelectricity can be used to generate electrical power from temperature gradients or differences in naturally occurring geothermal heat and rocks, or from waste heat in man-made equipment and industrial processes. Thermoelectric energy harvesting systems are finding commercial applications to replace or recharge batteries in low power electronic systems. This chapter provides the fundamental thermoelectric theory related to power generation, including the theoretical analysis and numerical calculations required to calculate the thermoelectric efficiency and electrical power generated when a single thermoelectric couple, and a 127 couple thermoelectric module, are subject to different temperature gradients. A thermoelectric energy harvesting system, incorporating a low power boost converter and DC to DC converter, coupled with electrical energy storage in supercapacitors, is presented and enables a thermoelectric energy harvesting system to provide sufficient electrical power to operate low power electronic components and systems. The short-term challenge for thermoelectric energy harvesting is to become a cost effective and practical solution to replace batteries, and to be scaled to provide sufficient power to operate electrical rotating machines such as low power motors and pumps. The long-term challenge is to improve the efficiency, power output, and cost of thermoelectric modules and energy harvesting systems, and to develop from low power to low-to-medium power applications.
Part of the book: A Guide to Small-Scale Energy Harvesting Techniques