Impacts of distributed thermal and electric contact resistance on performance and geometric optimization of thermoelectric generators

Ying Li, Yong Shi, Ding Luo, Xuehui Wang, Yuying Yan

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Thermal and electric contact resistance (TCR/ECR) critically impact performance and geometric optimization of thermoelectric generators (TEGs). However, conventional treatments usually ignored or simplified them as lumped variables, neglecting their actual distributions across the TEG system. In this study, we proposed a multiphysical model to characterize TEG performance with explicitly specifying TCRs/ECRs at different TEG interfaces
(locations). The numerical results show that the lumped-variable treatment led to maximal overestimations of 16.9 % and 24.5 % in the TEG output power and efficiency, respectively, compared to the results with distributed TCR in this article. Importantly, it also reveals that the TEG performance was susceptible to the TCR location—the interfaces on the cold side exerted more negative impacts than those on the hot side. Furthermore, reducing both TCR and ECR could improve TEG performance and reducing TCR is more effective. It is shown that an 80 % reduction in TCR increased the maximum TEG output power by 35.6 %, while the same reduction percentage in ECR only improved it by 8.8 %. As to geometric optimization, an optimal TE leg height equal to 0.6 mm was obtained for the maximum output power. This contrasts with previous studies without considering TCR and ECR, which always favored shorter heights. As for copper electrodes, their optimal heights were in the range of 0.2–0.4 mm corresponding to the maximum efficiency, far smaller than those (0.7–1.2 mm) obtained when TCR/ECR were neglected. The latter even further resulted in a reduction in the maximum efficiency by more than 1 % compared to its true peak. In this study, all these numerical results clearly elucidate the important impacts of distributed TCR and ECR on TEG performance, and provide a comprehensive and balanced guideline for TEG design.
Original languageEnglish
Article number122873
JournalApplied Thermal Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2024


  • Thermoelectric generator
  • Distributed thermal contact resistance
  • Distributed electric contact resistance
  • Performance assessment
  • Geometric optimization


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