High-Performance Nanostructured Thermoelectric Generators for Micro Combined Heat and Power Systems

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Micro combined heat and power (micro-CHP) systems are promising pathways to increase power generation efficiencies. Here a new class of micro-CHP system without moving parts is experimentally demonstrated by integrating high-temperature thermoelectric generators (TEGs) and residential gas- fired boilers, thus enabling wide applications. The TEGs fabricated using high-efficiency nanostructured bulk half-Heusler alloys generate ultrahigh power density of 2.1 W/cm2 with 5.3% electrical efficiency under 500 °C temperature differences between the hot and cold sides. The TEG system harnesses the untapped exergy between the combustion gas and water, and converts thermal energy into electric power with 4% heat-to-electricity efficiency based on the total heat input into the TEGs. The high-performance TEGs open lots of opportunities to transform power generation technologies and improve energy efficiency.