Effective thermal conductivity in thermoelectric materials

Lauryn L. Baranowski, G. Jeffrey Snyder, Eric S. Toberer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Thermoelectric generators (TEGs) are solid state heat engines that generate electricity from a temperature gradient. Optimizing these devices for maximum power production can be difficult due to the many heat transport mechanisms occurring simultaneously within the TEG. In this paper, we develop a model for heat transport in thermoelectric materials in which an "effective thermal conductivity" (κ eff) encompasses both the one dimensional steady-state Fourier conduction and the heat generation/consumption due to secondary thermoelectric effects. This model is especially powerful in that the value of κ eff does not depend upon the operating conditions of the TEG but rather on the transport properties of the TE materials themselves. We analyze a variety of thermoelectric materials and generator designs using this concept and demonstrate that κ eff predicts the heat fluxes within these devices to 5% of the exact value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number204904
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 28 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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