Survey of Thermoelectric and Solar Technologies as Alternative Energy Solutions

Report No. ARL-TR-5920
Authors: Kendall Bianchi, Jay R. Maddux, Kimberly Sablon-Ramsey, and Patrick J. Taylor
Date/Pages: February 2012; 22 pages
Abstract: Thermoelectric and solar power generation are two promising alternative energy solutions for the military. Power generation devices based on these two technologies aid the military by lightening Soldiers' loads and allowing them to carry fewer batteries and more equipment. Since these technologies use renewable energy sources, Soldiers are also spared the nuisance of having to constantly resupply. Thermoelectric power generates electricity from any adventitious source of heat, while solar cells employ sunlight to do the same. Both technologies are currently subject to extensive research to improve efficiency, utility, and cost. Although they both operate on renewable energy sources, each technology functions at a different temperature range. Thermoelectric devices run on low temperatures, generally below 1000 K, while solar cells require temperatures equivalent to those of the sun. Thermoelectric and solar power generators complement each other since they are capable of producing electricity from disparate sources. Solar produces highly efficient power during daytime but fails in darkness. Thermoelectrics can produce electricity with lower efficiency but dramatically more sources of heat are available for thermoelectric power generation, enabling full diurnal operation. This report discusses measurements of the properties and efficiency of a thermoelectric device and a solar cell.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: February 1, 2012