Development of high efficiency segmented thermoelectric couples for space applications

Fivos Drymiotis, Jean Pierre Fleurial, Sabah Bux, Samad Firdosy, Kurt Start, Ike Chi, Vilupanur Ravi, Billy Chun Yip Li, Sevan Chanakian, Dean Cheikh, Kathy Lee, Kevin Yu, Obed Villalpando, Kevin Smith, David Uhl, Chen Kuo Huang, Jong Ah Paik, Zi Kui Liu, Jorge Paz Soldan Palma, Yi WangXiao Yu Chong, Frances Hurwitz, Dongming Zhu, Haiquan Guo, Gustavo Costa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTG) have been used by NASA to reliably power spacecraft for deep space exploration for over 40 years. Current state of the practice systems are limited to device-level efficiencies of 7.5% or less and system level specific powers of 2.8 to 5.1 W/Kg. NASA’s Radioisotope Power Systems Thermoelectric Technology Development Program (TTDP) is pursuing development of more efficient thermoelectric technologies that can increase performance by a factor of 2 to 4x over these state of the practice systems1. NASA’s TTDP is developing high-efficiency segmented couples/modules with the following design goals: A) system conversion efficiency ≥ 11% (≥ 60% improvement over MMRTG at BOL) and b) ≥ 6-8.5 We/kg specific power (2-3 x improvement over MMRTG), for a temperature gradient T = 800 K (TH=1273 K and TC = 473 K). We will be discussing the state of development of the aforementioned couples and the tools that are used to guide this development. First-principle calculations and Finite Element Thermomechanical analysis are used to guide materials selection and device architecture, while extended device testing is utilized to establish couple reliability and stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space, NETS 2018
PublisherAmerican Nuclear Society
Number of pages4
ISBN (Print)9781510859609
StatePublished - 2016
EventNuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space, NETS 2018 - Las Vegas, United States
Duration: Feb 26 2018Mar 1 2018

Publication series

NameNuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space, NETS 2018


OtherNuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space, NETS 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLas Vegas

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


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