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Transient response of a thermoelectric generator to load steps under constant heat flux

Torrecilla, Marcos Compadre, Montecucco, Andrea, Siviter, Jonathan, Strain, Andrew, Knox, Andrew R.
Applied energy 2018 v.212 pp. 293-303
algorithms, electric current, electric power, heat recovery, power generation, temperature, thermoelectric generators, wastes
Most waste heat recovery applications involve a heat source that provides a limited heat flux that can be converted into electricity by a thermoelectric generator (TEG). When a TEG is used under limited or constant heat flux conditions the temperature difference across the device cannot be considered constant and will change depending on the electrical current generated by the TEG. This phenomenon is induced by the Peltier effect, which works against power generation and deviates the optimum operating point from the commonly known maximum power point (MPP). This point, dictated by the maximum power transfer theorem, is achieved when the source equivalent series resistance and the load resistance are equal, in conditions of constant temperature difference. Hence maximum power point tracking (MPPT) algorithms that regulate the TEG at half of the instantaneous open-circuit voltage are optimized only for applications where the TEG operates under constant temperature difference but are not ideal for constant heat flux conditions. Hill climbing MPPT methods, e.g., perturb-and-observe (P&O) or incremental conductance (IC), can reach the MPP more accurately if the sampling time is extended to the thermal time constant of the system.This article presents an analysis of the transient electrical and thermal response of a TEG to a load change. This investigation results fundamental to the design of MPPT algorithms such P&O or IC for TEGs operating under constant heat flux. A step-up (boost) dc-dc converter controlled by P&O is used to demonstrate the effects of the sampling time over of the transient response and hence the tracking performance of the MPPT algorithm.