Frontiers in Energy

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 239–248 | Cite as

Effect of non-uniform illumination on performance of solar thermoelectric generators

  • Ershuai Yin
  • Qiang Li
  • Yimin Xuan
Research Article


Solar thermoelectric generators (STEGs) are heat engines which can generate electricity from concentrated sunlight. The non-uniform illumination caused by the optical concentrator may affect the performance of solar thermoelectric generators. In this paper, a three-dimensional finite element model of solar thermoelectric generators is established. The two-dimensional Gaussian distribution is employed to modify the illumination profiles incident on the thermoelectric generator. Six non-uniformities of solar illumination are investigated while keeping the total energy constant. The influences of non-uniform illumination on the temperature distribution, the voltage distribution, and the maximum output power are respectively discussed. Three thermoelectric generators with 32, 18 and 8 pairs of thermocouples are compared to investigate their capability under non-uniform solar radiation. The result shows that the non-uniformity of the solar illumination has a great effect on the temperature distribution and the voltage distribution. Central thermoelectric legs can achieve a larger temperature difference and generate a larger voltage than peripheral ones. The non-uniform solar illumination will weaken the capability of the TE generator, and the maximum output power decrease by 1.4% among the range of non-uniformity studied in this paper. Reducing the number of the thermoelectric legs for non-uniform solar illumination can greatly increase the performance of the thermoelectric generator.


solar thermoelectric generators non-uniform solar illumination performance evaluation solar energy 


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No.51590903).


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MIIT Key Laboratory of Thermal Control of Electronic Equipment, School of Energy and Power EngineeringNanjing University of Science and TechnologyNanjingChina
  2. 2.IMIIT Key Laboratory of Thermal Control of Electronic Equipment, School of Energy and Power EngineeringNanjing University of Science and TechnologyNanjingChina
  3. 3.School of Energy and PowerNanjing University of Aeronautics and AstronauticsNanjingChina

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