EPJ Plus Highlight - Back to basics with thermoelectric power

Determination of the Seebeck coefficient for a circuit composed of two dissimilar materials.

New study highlights the role of electron diffusivity when turning waste heat into electricity

Many phenomena in physics, though well-known, are not necessarily widely understood. That’s the case with thermoelectricity, which harnesses waste heat by coupling heat flux and electric current. However, understanding such phenomena is important in order to leave the door open for discovering novel manifestations of them. Thus, even today physicists working in the area of thermoelectricity continue to ask fundamental questions about the underlying physical process. For example, in a recent study, a team based in France questioned the nature of the force that puts electrons to work when a temperature difference is applied across a thermoelectric material. Now, Henni Ouerdane, affiliated to the Russian Quantum Center near Moscow, and colleagues have published in EPJ Plus a study showing that the force that puts electrons to work to harness the waste heat is linked to the ability of electrons to diffuse through the material. Potential applications in the field of electrical power production from waste heat include thermoelectric devices designed to boost power over a range spanning ten orders of magnitude: typically from microwatts to several kilowatts.

One of the key factors in thermoelectricity is a measure of the strength of the mutual interaction between electric charge transport and heat transport, referred to as the Seebeck coefficient. In physical terms, this coefficient is related to the gradient of the system’s electrochemical potential. In this study, the authors analyse the relationship between the thermoelectric power and the electrochemical potential in the thermoelectric system.

In particular, they study this in a semiconductor with low levels of impurity, as a model for observing the Seebeck coefficient. They then establish the link between this first model and a second, which uses the laws of thermodynamics to determine how the system behaves when it is not at equilibrium. They demonstrate that the electrical current resulting from thermoelectric effects can be directly formulated from the equations governing drift-diffusion of electrons at the macroscopic scale.

This was our first experience of publishing with EPJ Web of Conferences. We contacted the publisher in the middle of September, just one month prior to the Conference, but everything went through smoothly. We have had published MNPS Proceedings with different publishers in the past, and would like to tell that the EPJ Web of Conferences team was probably the best, very quick, helpful and interactive. Typically, we were getting responses from EPJ Web of Conferences team within less than an hour and have had help at every production stage.
We are very thankful to Solange Guenot, Web of Conferences Publishing Editor, and Isabelle Houlbert, Web of Conferences Production Editor, for their support. These ladies are top-level professionals, who made a great contribution to the success of this issue. We are fully satisfied with the publication of the Conference Proceedings and are looking forward to further cooperation. The publication was very fast, easy and of high quality. My colleagues and I strongly recommend EPJ Web of Conferences to anyone, who is interested in quick high-quality publication of conference proceedings.

On behalf of the Organizing and Program Committees and Editorial Team of MNPS-2019, Dr. Alexey B. Nadykto, Moscow State Technological University “STANKIN”, Moscow, Russia. EPJ Web of Conferences vol. 224 (2019)

ISSN: 2100-014X (Electronic Edition)

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