Thermoelectric power generation is an advanced technology of electric power generation relying on Peltier effect. In its fundamentals the latter one is pretty simple - a plate consisting of two plates made from different metals generates electricity when one side of it is heated.
First thermoelectric Peltier elements were indeed as simple as the one described above. Nowadays, the technology made significant advancements due to newer and better materials (mostly semiconductors used to achieve Peltier effect), improved assembly precision and other technological developments.
Typical thermoelectric module is a thin (up to 10 milimeters) plate with two electric power wires attached to it. At the same time, the technology allows for very flexible designs and form-factors suitable for various industries and technological cycles.
Thermoelectric power generation technology offers a range of advantages comparing to conventional technologies. The most notable among them are the following:
* Absence of moving parts and reliability - the thermoelectric Peltier effect based devices can run over 10 years before any maintenance needed
* Any thermal power source can be used for generating electricity
* Silent operation - the thermoelectric modules emit no sounds and no vibrations when in operation
* Shape and size flexibility - unlike the traditional generators thermoelectric elements may come in a range of various shapes and form-factors
Thermoelectric power generation is widely used in a range of applications where more common power-generation models are not suitable for various reasons, be it economic or purely technical:
* Aerospace. Numerous many satellites rely on thermoelectric elements for electricity supply with the heat source being supplied by nuclear element. The absence of moving parts and reliability provided by thermoelectric elements is very important for such mission-critical applications.
* Exploration and tourism. For many years mobile geology and oil exploration teams working in North of Russia use thermoelectric Peltier elements to provide themselves with electricity needed to power the devices like radios and laptops. The thermoelectric modules would use the heat from the fire to generate electricity. The same technology is more and more actively used by regular tourists.
* Automotive. Waste heat from vehicle engines can be used to generate electricity without the usage of devices like Stirling motors and generators which also produce vibrations and are mechanically sophisticated devices and more prone to breakages.
* Other areas. The list of areas where thermoelectric power generators are used is growing fast with new application areas arriving rapidly
In other words, thermal power generation is a great technology option for a range of applications where low maintenance costs, reliability and silent operation and low
infrastructure demands is of high importance.