Thermoelectricity was discovered in 1821 and developed into a practical technology 1950's and 1960's. It now provides electronic refrigeration and electronic power generation for a number of important, niche applications. Widespread use of thermoelectric technology, however, requires significant improvements in efficiency.
This talk is an undergraduate level introduction to the field. After
a brief discussion of applications, the physics of the Peltier effect
is described, and the Figure of Merit (FOM), ZT, which controls the
efficiency of a thermoelectric refrigerator or electric power
generator, is discussed. The talk concludes with a brief look at the
role that nanoscience may play in increasing the FOM and broadening
the applications for thermoelectric technology.
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