Energy recovery from waste heat is attracting more and more attention. All electronic systems consume electricity but only a fraction of it is used for information processing and for human interfaces, such as displays. Lots of energy is dissipated as heat. There are some discussions on waste heat recovery from the electronic systems such as laptop computers. However the efficiency of energy conversion for such utilization is not very attractive due to the maximum allowable temperature of the heat source devices. This leads to very low limits of Carnot efficiency. In contrast to thermodynamic heat engines, Brayton cycle, free piston Stirling engines, etc., authors previously reported that thermoelectric (TE) can be a cost-effective device if the TE and the heat sink are co-optimized, and if some parasitic effects could be reduced. Since the heat already exists and it is free, the additional cost and energy payback time are the key measures to evaluate the value of the energy recovery system. In this report, we will start with the optimum model of the TE power generation system. Then, theoretical maximum output, cost impact and energy payback are evaluated in the examples of electronics system. Entropy Generation Minimization (EGM) is a method already familiar in thermal management of electronics. The optimum thermoelectric waste heat recovery design is compared with the EGM approach. Exergy analysis evaluates the useful energy flow in the optimum TE system. This comprehensive analysis is used to predict the potential future impact of the TE material development, as the dimensionless figure-of-merit (ZT) is improved.

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