Thermoelectrics are solid state devices that can convert thermal energy directly into electrical energy. They have historically been used only in niche applications because of their relatively low efficiencies. With the advent of nanotechnology and improved manufacturing processes thermoelectric materials have become less costly and more efficient As next generation thermoelectric materials become available there is a need for industries to quickly and cost effectively seek out feasible applications for thermoelectric heat recovery platforms. Determining the technical and economic feasibility of such systems requires a model that predicts performance at the system level. Current models focus on specific system applications or neglect the rest of the system altogether, focusing on only module design and not an entire energy system. To assist in screening and optimizing entire energy systems using thermoelectrics, a novel software tool, Thermoelectric Power System Simulator (TEPSS), is developed for system level simulation and optimization of heat recovery systems. The platform is designed for use with a generic energy system so that most types of thermoelectric heat recovery applications can be modeled. TEPSS is based on object-oriented programming in MATLAB®. A modular, shell based architecture is developed to carry out concept generation, system simulation and optimization. Systems are defined according to the components and interconnectivity specified by the user. An iterative solution process based on Newton's Method is employed to determine the system's steady state so that an objective function representing the cost of the system can be evaluated at the operating point. An optimization algorithm from MATLAB's Optimization Toolbox uses sequential quadratic programming to minimize this objective function with respect to a set of user specified design variables and constraints. During this iterative process many independent system simulations are executed and the optimal operating condition of the system is determined. A comprehensive guide to using the software platform is included. TEPSS is intended to be expandable so that users can add new types of components and implement component models with an adequate degree of complexity for a required application. Special steps are taken to ensure that the system of nonlinear algebraic equations presented in the system engineering model is square and that all equations are independent. In addition, the third party program FluidProp is leveraged to allow for simulations of systems with a range of fluids. Sequential unconstrained minimization techniques are used to prevent physical variables like pressure and temperature from trending to infinity during optimization. Two case studies are performed to verify and demonstrate the simulation and optimization routines employed by TEPSS. The first is of a simple combined cycle in which the size of the heat exchanger and fuel rate are optimized. The second case study is the optimization of geometric parameters of a thermoelectric heat recovery platform in a regenerative Brayton Cycle. A basic package of components and interconnections are verified and provided as well.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Thermoelectric generators--Computer simulation; Thermoelectric generators--Research; Nanostructured materials
Department, Program, or Center
Mechanical Engineering (KGCOE)
Kreuder, John, "Development of a platform for simulating and optimizing thermoelectric energy systems" (2010). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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