File: Efficiency at maximum power of thermally coupled heat engines

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Y. Apertet, H. Ouerdane, C. Goupil and Ph. Lecoeur

We study the efficiency at maximum power of two coupled heat engines, using thermoelectric generators (TEGs) as engines. Assuming that the heat and electric charge fluxes in the TEGs are strongly coupled, we simulate numerically the dependence of the behavior of the global system on the electrical load resistance of each generator in order to obtain the working condition that permits maximization of the output power. It turns out that this condition is not unique.We derive a simple analytic expression giving the relation between the electrical load resistance of each generator permitting output power maximization. We then focus on the efficiency at maximum power (EMP) of the whole system to demonstrate that the Curzon-Ahlborn efficiency may not always be recovered: The EMP varies with the specific working conditions of each generator but remains in the range predicted by irreversible thermodynamics theory. We discuss our results in light of nonideal Carnot engine behavior.

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