Model Based Development of Enhanced Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator and Effect of Thermoelectric Leg Length on eMMRTG

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. HoSung Lee

Second Advisor

Dr. Christopher Cho

Third Advisor

Dr. Muralidhar Ghantasala


eMMRTG, thermoelectric couple, effect of thermoelectric leg length, model-based development, radioisotope thermoelectric generator

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Abstract Only

Restricted to Campus until



The Mars Curiosity Rover, designed and developed by Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) of NASA, uses a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) to power the rover in which plutonium 238 (Pu-238) is used [1], [2], [3]. The general purpose heat source with plutonium 238 as a fuel has a potential to be used in many space missions [4], [5]. The RTG converts the heat obtained from a natural decay of Pu-238 into electrical energy, and the curiosity rover utilizes it for movements, navigation and communication [2]. Thermoelectric (TE) modules in MMRTG are made up of lead telluride [6] to convert heat into power using the temperature difference between the heat source and the Mars ambient temperature. However, a modified version of MMRTG is developed, which is known as the Enhanced MMRTG (eMMRTG). It has 768 Skutterudite TE elements rather than lead telluride [7]. Thermal and electrical properties of TE material along with general purpose heat source are selected optimally to obtain a great balance between maximum power and maximum efficiency [8], [9]. In this work, an only 1/8th segment of the actual eMMRTG model is considered to reproduce the results. Mathcad is used to develop an analytical model. A numerical model of eMMRTG is developed in Autodesk Inventor and is later simulated in ANSYS. After validating the numerical model, the effect of ceramic materials and TE leg lengths on the power output of eMMRTG is studied by conducting trials on the simulated model.

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