With the tremendous growth in demand for energy resources, there is a growing need to adopt alternative energy technologies, including ones that tap renewable energy sources as well as use non-renewable sources more efficiently. Thermoelectric energy generation is one such emerging technology. Thermoelectrics can convert waste heat from various sources--significantly, many industrial processes as well as vehicles--directly into electrical power. Thermoelectric devices can generate power when a temperature difference is applied across them. Major barriers to mainstream adoption of thermoelectric devices are their low efficiency and high cost. These are mostly limited by the properties of the constituent materials of the device(s) and the operating temperatures. In the past decade there have been significant advancements in thermoelectric materials that can be used at higher temperatures. The properties of thermoelectric materials are temperature dependent, and may also vary from bulk material to device level. Right now, devices with higher working temperatures are not available. According to feedback from laboratories working on high-temperature modules, the next stage in the development of thermoelectric devices would go up to 650°C. The main focus of this project is to design and develop a test stand to evaluate the properties of all such high-temperature devices. One of the critical challenges in testing modules, especially at high temperatures, is being able to accurately control and measure heat rates transferred across a module. Many of the current characterization techniques are limited to solely measuring the electrical response and ignoring the heat transfer. A new testing technique, "rapid steady state," was developed, which is able to accurately measure the three key characteristic properties--the Seebeck coefficient, electrical resistance, and thermal conductance--of a thermoelectric module over temperature ranges from 50 to 650°C. To ensure isothermal surfaces and minimize heat rate errors, a primary heater is encased in a guard heater. Rapid pulsed electronic loading allows for rapid voltage-current scans while avoiding thermal drift. The thermal conductivity of a reference material is used to validate the performance of the guard heater assembly and heat-monitoring setup.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Thermoelectric apparatus and appliances--Testing; Heat resistant materials

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Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (CAST)


Stevens, Robert


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