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Integrated microthermoelectric coolers with rapid response time and high device reliability

Abstract

Microthermoelectric modules are of potential use in fields such as energy harvesting, thermal management, thermal imaging and high-spatial-resolution temperature sensing. In particular, microthermoelectric coolers (µ-TECs)—in which the application of an electric current cools the device—can be used to manage heat locally in microelectronic circuits. However, a cost-effective µ-TEC device that is compatible with the modern semiconductor fabrication industry has not yet been developed. Furthermore, the device performance of µ-TECs in terms of transient responses, cycling reliability and cooling stability has not been adequately assessed. Here we report the fabrication of µ-TECs that offer a rapid response time of 1 ms, reliability of up to 10 million cycles and a cooling stability of more than 1 month at constant electric current. The high cooling reliability and stability of our µ-TEC module can be attributed to a design of free-standing top contacts between the thermoelectric legs and metallic bridges, which reduces the thermomechanical stress in the devices.

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The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Change history

  • 05 November 2018

    In the version of this Article originally published, in the Methods section ‘Analytical calculation and FEM simulation’ the first equation was incorrect and has now been replaced. In addition, in the section ‘Conclusions’, the packing density mistakenly read ‘5,000 leg pairs per cm2’ and has now been corrected to read ‘5,500 leg pairs per cm2’.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank T. Sieger, H. Stein, C. Kupka and R. Uhlemann in IFW Dresden for helpful technical support. G.L. thanks T. G. Woodcock in Leibniz IFW Dresden for his valuable comments and suggestions for this Article. G.L. and V.B acknowledge financial support from the European Union (EU) and the Free State of Saxony through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) (SAB GroTEGx, grant no. 100245375). J.G.F. acknowledges financial support from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (H2020 RIA Tips, grant no. 644453), D.A.L.R. acknowledges funding from the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology (grant no. CVU611106).

Author information

G.L., J.G.F., H.R., G.S. and K.N. designed the work. G.L. and J.G.F. fabricated the integrated microcoolers and carried out the device performance characterization. J.G., D.A.L.R. and V.B. performed the model simulation based on FEM COMSOL and analytical calculations. G.L. and N.P. performed the scanning electron microscope observations. G.L. and I.S. carried out the temperature-dependent cooling performance measurements. G.L. wrote the manuscript, with input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Guodong Li.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Figures 1–5 and Supplementary Table 1

Supplementary Video 1

Video of water condensation on microthermoelectric coolers when the stage temperature is set at 280 K

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Fig. 1: Schematic fabrication line for integrated µ-TECs and corresponding secondary electron images.
Fig. 2: Cooling performance of µ-TECs.
Fig. 3: Durability of µ-TEC devices.
Fig. 4: Temperature dependence of net cooling.