Thermoelectric system’s operation needs careful attention to ensure optimal power conversion depending on the application aims. As a ternary diagram of bithermal systems allows a synthetic graphical analysis of the performance attainable by any work-heat conversion system, thermoelectric systems operation is plotted as a parametric curve function of the operating conditions (electric current and reservoirs’ temperature), based on the standard model of Ioffe. The threshold of each operating mode (heat engine, heat pump, thermal dissipation, and forced thermal transfer), along with the optimal efficiencies and powers of the heat pump and heat engine modes, are characterized graphically and analytically as a function of the material properties and the operating conditions. The sensibility of the performance aims (maximum efficiency vs. maximum power) with the operating conditions is, thus, highlighted. In addition, the specific contributions of each phenomenon involved in the semiconductor (reversible Seebeck effect, irreversible heat leakage by conduction and irreversible thermal dissipation by Joule effect) are discussed in terms of entropy generation. Finally, the impact of the exo-irreversibilities on the performance is analyzed by taking the external thermal resistances into account.
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