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 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).