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Issue 10, 2012
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Concentrated solar thermoelectric generators

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Solar thermoelectric generators (STEGs) are solid state heat engines that generate electricity from concentrated sunlight. In this paper, we develop a novel detailed balance model for STEGs and apply this model to both state-of-the-art and idealized materials. This model uses thermoelectric compatibility theory to provide analytic solutions to device efficiency in idealized materials with temperature-dependent properties. The results of this modeling allow us to predict maximum theoretical STEG efficiencies and suggest general design rules for STEGs. With today's materials, a STEG with an incident flux of 100 kW m−2 and a hot side temperature of 1000 °C could achieve 15.9% generator efficiency, making STEGs competitive with concentrated solar power plants. Future developments will depend on materials that can provide higher operating temperatures or higher material efficiency. For example, a STEG with zT = 2 at 1500 °C would have an efficiency of 30.6%.

Graphical abstract: Concentrated solar thermoelectric generators

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The article was received on 17 May 2012, accepted on 06 Aug 2012 and first published on 31 Aug 2012

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C2EE22248E
Energy Environ. Sci., 2012,5, 9055-9067

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    Concentrated solar thermoelectric generators

    L. L. Baranowski, G. J. Snyder and E. S. Toberer, Energy Environ. Sci., 2012, 5, 9055
    DOI: 10.1039/C2EE22248E

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