Thermoelectric generators with PVT energy, nanofluids


An international research team led by Australia's RMIT University has fabricated a prototype of a nanofluid-cooled thermoelectric generator (TEG) that uses photovoltaic-thermal (PVT) energy to increase its overall efficiency.

TEGs can convert heat into electricity through the “Seebeck effect,” which occurs when a temperature difference between two different semiconductors produces a voltage difference between two substances. The devices are commonly used for industrial applications to convert excess heat into electricity. However, their high costs and limited performance have thus far limited their adoption on a broader scale.

The research group described the proposed PVT-TEG-NF system as a hybrid system featuring a 10 W polycrystalline solar module, 16 TEGs, and eight aluminum heat exchangers connected in parallel and attached to the system's backside. The researchers said that this configuration ensures an almost uniform temperature gradient across all TEGs, while mitigating heat loss to the environment by insulating the back of the panel, allowing the heat to be captured solely through the heat exchangers.

“By increasing solar concentration from 1.5 suns to 2.5 suns, the PV temperatures could be maintained at 44.5 C and 51.5 C using CuO-Fe/W and water with 0.12 m/s of inlet velocity, respectively,” they explained. “This made it possible to enhance the power output of the PV and TEGs by 65.9 % and 187 %, respectively, by using CuO-Fe/W as coolant, while the temperature of the panel could be maintained at a safe level.”

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The researchers described the system in “A nanofluid-based hybrid photovoltaic-thermal -thermoelectric generator system for combined heat and power applications,” which was recently published in Energy Conversion and Management.

“It is evident that for concentrations of lower than 2 suns, the system using CuO-Fe/W performs the best and can keep the PV and overall efficiency high,” they concluded.

The research team included scientists from the K. N. Toosi University of Technology in Iran.

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