Analysis of a sandwich-type generator with self-heating thermoelectric elements

Mikyung Kim, Hyein Yang, Daehyun Wee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A novel and unique design of thermoelectric generators, in which a heat source is combined with thermoelectric elements, is proposed. By placing heat-generating radioactive isotopes inside the thermoelectric elements, the heat transfer limitation between the generator and the heat source can be eliminated, ensuring simplicity. The inner electrode is sandwiched between identical thermoelectric elements, which naturally allows the inner core to act as the hot side. Analysis shows that conversion efficiency and power density increase as the heat density inside the thermoelectric elements increases and as the thermoelectric performance of the material improves. The theoretical maximum efficiency is shown to be 50%. However, realistic performance under practical constraint is much worse. In realistic cases, the efficiency would be about 3% at best. The power density of the proposed design exhibits a much more reasonable value as high as 3000 W/m2. Although the efficiency is low, the simplicity of the proposed design combined with its reasonable power density may result in some, albeit limited, potential applications. Further investigation must be performed in order to realize such potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-446
Number of pages7
JournalEnergy Conversion and Management
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Efficiency
  • Heat transfer
  • Power density
  • Radioactive isotopes
  • Thermoelectric generators


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