Thermoelectrics is an old field. In 1823, Thomas Seebeck discovered that a voltage drop appears across a sample that has a temperature gradient. This phenomenon provided the basis for thermocouples used for measuring temperature and for thermoelectric power generators. In 1838, Heinrich Lenz placed a drop of water on the junction of metal wires made of bismuth and antimony. Passing an electric current through the junction in one direction caused the water to freeze, and reversing the current caused the ice to quickly melt; thus thermoelectric refrigeration was demonstrated (figure 1).
Thermoelectric Materials: New Approaches to an Old Problem
Gerald Mahan, Brian Sales, Jeff Sharp; Thermoelectric Materials: New Approaches to an Old Problem. Physics Today 1 March 1997; 50 (3): 42–47. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.881752
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