Towards high efficiency segmented thermoelectric unicouples

Pham Hoang Ngan*, Dennis Valbjørn Christensen, Gerald Jeffrey Snyder, Le Thanh Hung, Søren Linderoth, Ngo Van Nong, Nini Pryds

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Segmentation of thermoelectric (TE) materials is a widely used solution to improve the efficiency of thermoelectric generators over a wide working temperature range. However, the improvement can only be obtained with appropriate material selections. In this work, we provide an overview of the theoretical efficiency of the best performing unicouples designed from segmenting the state-of-the-art TE materials. The efficiencies are evaluated using a 1D numerical model which includes all thermoelectric effects, heat conduction, Joule effects and temperature dependent material properties, but neglects contact resistance and heat losses. The calculations are performed for a fixed cold side temperature of 300 K and different hot side temperatures of 700, 900, and 1100 K. We confirm that without taking into account the compatibility of TE materials, segmentation can even decrease the total efficiency. Choosing the TE materials carefully, one is, however, rewarded by a significant improvement in the total efficiency. Thermoelectricity, a process of converting heat into electricity and vice versa, is important for its high potential for many applications. Both the conversion efficiency and working temperature range can be greatly improved by segmenting multiple materials. Here, we design high-efficient thermoelectric (TE) generators by segmenting today's state-of-the-art TE materials. Their efficiencies are calculated at temperature spans of up to 1100 K, and the criterion for selecting compatible materials for segmentation is given.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalPhysica Status Solidi (A) Applications and Materials Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • segmented thermoelectric generators
  • segmented thermoelectric unicouples

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Materials Chemistry


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