Concentrating solar thermoelectric generators with a peak efficiency of 7.4%

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Abstract

Concentrating solar power normally employs mechanical heat engines and is thus only used in large-scale power plants; however, it is compatible with inexpensive thermal storage, enabling electricity dispatchability. Concentrating solar thermoelectric generators (STEGs) have the advantage of replacing the mechanical power block with a solid-state heat engine based on the Seebeck effect, simplifying the system. The highest reported efficiency of STEGs so far is 5.2%. Here, we report experimental measurements of STEGs with a peak efficiency of 9.6% at an optically concentrated normal solar irradiance of 211 kW m â first>'2, and a system efficiency of 7.4% after considering optical concentration losses. The performance improvement is achieved by the use of segmented thermoelectric legs, a high-temperature spectrally selective solar absorber enabling stable vacuum operation with absorber temperatures up to 600 â first> C, and combining optical and thermal concentration. Our work suggests that concentrating STEGs have the potential to become a promising alternative solar energy technology.

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Kraemer, D., Jie, Q., Mcenaney, K., Cao, F., Liu, W., Weinstein, L. A., … Chen, G. (2016). Concentrating solar thermoelectric generators with a peak efficiency of 7.4%. Nature Energy, 1(11). https://doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2016.153

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