High-Performance Solar Thermoelectric Flat-Panel Generators

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

(Schematics and pictures of solar thermoelectric generator cell with nanostructured bismuth telluride)



Nanostructured Bi2Te3 (bismuth telluride) alloys are sandwiched between thin-film solar absorber plates and a heat sink to absorb both solar light and irradiation converting them to both energy and heat.  The use of nanostructured Bismuth Telluride results in a 20-40% enhancement of thermoelectric properties over microstructured bismuth telluride.  The concept is analogous to combining a solar water heater with a solar PV panel, creating a more efficient panel/heating element in a smaller footprint. 

The solar absorber conducts heat and electricity to the thermoelectric nanostructures.  These nanostructures transmit the conducted heat and electricity to the copper bottom plates, which act as electrical electrodes, radiation shields and heat spreaders.  The new design overcomes some of the efficiency shortcomings of previous Solar Thermoelectric Generator (STeG) designs by encapsulating the solar absorber and thermoelectric device within a domed glass vacuum, allowing for minimal heat loss and greater absorption during morning and late afternoon.

Development Stage: 

Key Words: 



This technology would enhance the energy production of STeG devices by boosting conversion efficiency.





Benefit Summary: 

The nanostructured bismuth telluride results in a 20-40% enhancement of thermoelectric properties when compared to microstructured bismuth telluride.


Risk Summary: 


Risk Characterization: 




Challenge Area: