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Thermoelectric (Seebeck) solar power at reasonable cost  RSS feed

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Interesting project featured on Hack-a-Day today:

http://www.instructables.com/id/S6KN8N2FYTCMBPS

A Fresnel lens, some black spray paint, a Peltier cooler run backward, a heat sink, and a cooling fan, makes a reasonable amount of power at a reasonable up-front cost.

I'd have gone with liquid cooling, and done a CVD coating of porous amorphous carbon (i.e., used a candle flame to apply soot) rather than use spray paint.

The author says it's similar in $/kW, but I'd take that with a grain of salt because he didn't compute power correctly (the right way is actually very complicated), and doesn't include the cost of a solar tracker.  It's still an interesting result for such an early effort.  It would be most interesting to those with a cheap source of Seebeck/Peltier devices.

The author speculates about an insulating aperture: I might use three sheets of Al foil at (and near) the focus point.
 
paul wheaton
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So .... optimizing the general design could lead to more watts per dollar than PV cells? 



 
Joel Hollingsworth
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paul wheaton wrote:
So .... optimizing the general design could lead to more watts per dollar than PV cells? 


I think so.

Certainly better EROEI.

But that isn't exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.  With liquid cooling and a good concentrator/tracker setup, a small section of ordinary PV cell can put out much more power than if it is in normal sunlight and cooled by natural air flow.  Given a well-cooled homebrew concentrator setup, it may well be that PV is cheaper than Seebeck.

The fact that this technology is fundamentally thermal opens possibilities for energy storage, for co-generation of hot water, and for alternative heat sources powering the same electrical setup when sun isn't available.

Ultimately, I think it's most interesting for those who have Peltier devices laying around already.
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