Thermodynamics of thermoelectric phenomena and applications

Christophe Goupil*, Wolfgang Seifert, Knud Zabrocki, Eckhard Müller, G. Jeffrey Snyder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


Fifty years ago, the optimization of thermoelectric devices was analyzed by considering the relation between optimal performances and local entropy production. Entropy is produced by the irreversible processes in thermoelectric devices. If these processes could be eliminated, entropy production would be reduced to zero, and the limiting Carnot efficiency or coefficient of performance would be obtained. In the present review, we start with some fundamental thermodynamic considerations relevant for thermoelectrics. Based on a historical overview, we reconsider the interrelation between optimal performances and local entropy production by using the compatibility approach together with the thermodynamic arguments. Using the relative current density and the thermoelectric potential, we show that minimum entropy production can be obtained when the thermoelectric potential is a specific, optimal value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1481-1517
Number of pages37
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Compatibility approach
  • Entropy production
  • Optimum device design
  • Thermoelectric potential
  • Thermoelectricity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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