Study: RTI International-developed thin-film thermoelectric coolers remove up to 25 times more heat than conventional devices

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC- Thin-film-based thermoelectric coolers can remove up to 25 times more heat than conventional thermoelectric coolers, according to a paper co-authored by researchers at RTI International. This groundbreaking development could potentially lead to higher efficiencies and longer lifetimes for high-power electronics.

"We believe that this research, and the demonstration of these high cooling-flux modules, will have a far reaching impact," said Philip Barletta, Ph.D., research engineer at RTI and co-author on the paper.  "Advanced computer processors, radio-frequency power devices, and quantum cascade lasers are just a few of the applications that could utilize this technology."

The research, published online by Nature Communications, was performed by RTI's electronics and applied physics division and then the test results were verified independently by colleagues at the University of Maryland.

Thermoelectric coolers are solid-state heat pumps that transfer heat via the motion of electrons. They can be used for lowering the temperature of and/or removing heat from objects ranging from semiconductor devices to car seats to beverage cans.

In comparison to conventional, bulk-material- thermoelectric coolers, the RTI-developed thin-film coolers produce larger cooling fluxes because of reduced electrical resistance of the device. This allows for the use of larger electrical currents, leading to an increase in heat pumping. For example, the top performing devices reported in RTI's paper pumped 258 Watts per square meter, as compared to the 10 Watts per square meter typically seen in conventional devices.

"We are excited about the future of this technology," Barletta said.  "These results show that thin-film thermoelectric devices can be a disruptive technology in the field of thermal management." 

Highlights

  • RTI has demonstrated thin film-based thermoelectric coolers that can remove up to 25 times more heat than conventional thermoelectric coolers
  • These coolers can be used for the thermal management of high power electronics, leading to higher efficiencies and longer lifetimes