Review

Cooling, Heating, Generating Power, and Recovering Waste Heat with Thermoelectric Systems

Science  12 Sep 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5895, pp. 1457-1461
DOI: 10.1126/science.1158899

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Abstract

Thermoelectric materials are solid-state energy converters whose combination of thermal, electrical, and semiconducting properties allows them to be used to convert waste heat into electricity or electrical power directly into cooling and heating. These materials can be competitive with fluid-based systems, such as two-phase air-conditioning compressors or heat pumps, or used in smaller-scale applications such as in automobile seats, night-vision systems, and electrical-enclosure cooling. More widespread use of thermoelectrics requires not only improving the intrinsic energy-conversion efficiency of the materials but also implementing recent advancements in system architecture. These principles are illustrated with several proven and potential applications of thermoelectrics.

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