Potential impact of ZT = 4 thermoelectric materials on solar thermal energy conversion technologies

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State-of-the-art methodologies for the conversion of solar thermal power to electricity are based on conventional electromagnetic induction techniques. If appropriate ZT = 4 thermoelectric materials were available, it is likely that conversion efficiencies of 30-40% could be achieved. The availability of all solid state electricity generation would be a long awaited development in part because of the elimination of moving parts. This paper presents a preliminary examination of the potential performance of ZT = 4 power generators in comparison with Stirling engines taking into account specific mass, volume and cost as well as system reliability. High-performance thermoelectrics appear to have distinct advantages over magnetic induction technologies. © 2010 American Chemical Society.

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Journal of Physical Chemistry B