Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Integrated microthermoelectric coolers with rapid response time and high device reliability

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 05 November 2018

This article has been updated


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

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.

Data availability

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

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’.


  1. Twaha, S., Zhu, J., Yan, Y. & Li, B. A comprehensive review of thermoelectric technology: materials, applications, modelling and performance improvement. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 65, 698–726 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Yan, J., Liao, X., Yan, D. & Chen, Y. Review of micro thermoelectric generator. J. Microelectromech. Syst. 27, 1–18 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Venkatasubramanian, R., Siivola, E., Colpitts, T. & O’Quinn, B. Thin-film thermoelectric devices with high room-temperature figures of merit. Nature 413, 597–602 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Chowdhury, I. et al. On-chip cooling by superlattice-based thin-film thermoelectrics. Nat. Nanotech. 4, 235–238 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Watkins, C., Shen, B. & Venkatasubramanian, R. Low-grade-heat energy harvesting using superlattice thermoelectrics for applications in implantable medical devices and sensors. In Proc. ICT 2005, 24th Int. Conf. Thermoelectrics 265–267 (IEEE, 2005).

  6. Yang, Y., Wei, X.-J. & Liu, J. Suitability of a thermoelectric power generator for implantable medical electronic devices. J. Phys. D 40, 5790–5800 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Lay-Ekuakille, A., Vendramin, G., Trotta, A. & Mazzotta, G. Thermoelectric generator design based on power from body heat for biomedical autonomous devices. In Proc. 2009 IEEE Int. Workshop Medical Meas. Appl., MeMeA 1–4 (IEEE, 2009);

  8. Rojas, J. P. et al. Review—Micro and nano-engineering enabled new generation of thermoelectric generator devices and applications. ECS J. Solid State Sci. Technol. 6, N3036–N3044 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Leonov, V. & Vullers, R. J. M. Wearable electronics self-powered by using human body heat: the state of the art and the perspective. J. Renew. Sustain. Energy 1, 062701 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Kim, S. J., We, J. H. & Cho, B. J. A wearable thermoelectric generator fabricated on a glass fabric. Energy Environ. Sci. 7, 1959–1965 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Kishi, M. et al. Fabrication of a miniature thermoelectric module with elements composed of sintered Bi-Te compounds. In Proc. ICT’97, 16th Int. Conf. Thermoelectrics (cat. no. 97TH8291) 653–656 (IEEE, 1997);

  12. Fleurial, J.-P. et al. Thermoelectric microcoolers for thermal management applications. In Proc. ICT’97, 16th Int. Conf. Thermoelectrics (cat. no. 97TH8291) 641–645 (IEEE, 1997);

  13. Birkholz, U., Fettig, R. & Rosenzweig, J. Fast semiconductor thermoelectric devices. Sens. Actuat. 12, 179–184 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Böttner, H. et al. New thermoelectric components using microsystems technologies. J. Microelectromech. Syst. 13, 414–420 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Bahk, J. H., Fang, H., Yazawa, K. & Shakouri, A. Flexible thermoelectric materials and device optimization for wearable energy harvesting. J. Mater. Chem. C 3, 10362–10374 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Wendt, H. & Kreysa, G. Electrochemical Engineering: Science and Technology in Chemical and Other Industries (Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 1999).

  17. Schumacher, C. et al. Optimization of electrodeposited p-doped Sb2Te3 thermoelectric films by millisecond potentiostatic pulses. Adv. Energy Mater. 2, 345–352 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Schumacher, C. et al. Optimizations of pulsed plated p- and n-type Bi2Te3-based ternary compounds by annealing in different ambient atmospheres. Adv. Energy Mater. 3, 95–104 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Snyder, G. J., Lim, J. R., Huang, C.-K. & Fleurial, J.-P. Thermoelectric microdevice fabricated by a MEMS-like electrochemical process. Nat. Mater. 2, 528–531 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Enright, R. et al. Electrodeposited micro thermoelectric module design for hybrid semiconductor laser cooling on a silicon photonics platform. Trans. Electrochem. Soc. 69, 37–51 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Medina-Sánchez, M. & Schmidt, O. G. Medical microbots need better imaging and control. Nature 545, 406–408 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Stordeur, M. & Stark, I. Low power thermoelectric generator — self-sufficient energy supply for micro systems. In Proc. ICT’97, 16th Int. Conf. Thermoelectrics (cat. no.97TH8291) 575–577 (IEEE, 1997);

  23. Fleurial, J. P. et al. Development of thick-film thermoelectric microcoolers using electrochemical deposition. In Thermoelectr. Mater. 1998 — Next Gener. Mater. Small-Scale Refrig. Power Gener. Appl. Vol. 545 (eds Tritt, T. M. et al.) 493–500 (1999).

  24. da Silva, L. W. & Kaviany, M. Fabrication and measured performance of a first-generation microthermoelectric cooler. J. Microelectromech. Syst. 14, 1110–1117 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lim, J. R. et al. Fabrication method for thermoelectric nanodevices. Adv. Mater. 17, 1488–1492 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Huang, I.-Y., Li, M.-J., Chen, K.-M., Zeng, G.-Y. & She, K.-D. Design and fabrication of a column-type microthermoelectric cooler with bismuth telluride and antimony telluride pillars by using electroplating and MEMS technology. In 2007 2nd IEEE Int. Conf. Nano/Micro Eng. Molecular Syst. 749–752 (IEEE, 2007);

  27. Gross, A. J. et al. Multistage planar thermoelectric microcoolers. J. Microelectromech.Syst. 20, 1201–1210 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kim, M.-Y. & Oh, T.-S. Thermoelectric thin film device of cross-plane configuration processed by electrodeposition and flip-chip bonding. Mater. Trans. 53, 2160–2165 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Roth, R. et al. Design and characterization of micro thermoelectric cross-plane generators with electroplated Bi2Te3, SbxTey, and reflow soldering. J. Microelectromech. Syst. 23, 961–971 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Zhang, W., Yang, J. & Xu, D. A high power density micro-thermoelectric generator fabricated by an integrated bottom-up approach. J. Microelectromech. Syst. 25, 744–749 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Trung, N. H., Van Toan, N. & Ono, T. Fabrication of π-type flexible thermoelectric generators using an electrochemical deposition method for thermal energy harvesting applications at room temperature. J. Micromech. Microeng. 27, 125006 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Yang, F., Zheng, S., Wang, H., Chu, W. & Dong, Y. A thin film thermoelectric device fabricated by a self-aligned shadow mask method. J. Micromech. Microeng. 27, 055005 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Lin, S. et al. Tellurium as a high-performance elemental thermoelectric. Nat. Commun. 7, 10287 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Younes, E., Christofferson, J., Maize, K. & Shakouri, A. Short time transient behavior of SiGe-based microrefrigerators. MRS Proc. 1166, 1166–N01-06 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. He, R., Schierning, G. & Nielsch, K. Thermoelectric devices: a review of devices, architectures, and contact optimization. Adv. Mater. Technol. 2017, 1700256 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  36. Garcia, J. et al. JSS focus issue on thermoelectric materials and devices fabrication and modeling of integrated micro-thermoelectric cooler by template-assisted electrochemical deposition. ECS J. Solid State Sci. Technol. 6, 3022–3021 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Snyder, G. J. & Toberer, E. S. Complex thermoelectric materials. Nat. Mater. 7, 105–114 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Muñoz-García, M. A., Moreda, G. P., Raga-Arroyo, M. P. & Marín-González, O. Water harvesting for young trees using Peltier modules powered by photovoltaic solar energy. Comput. Electron. Agric. 93, 60–67 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Rowe, D. M. in CRC Handbook of Thermoelectrics 1251–1256 (CRC, New York, 1995).

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  40. Perron, J. C. Thermal conductivity of selenium-tellurium liquid alloys. Phys. Lett. A 32, 169–170 (1970).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Nolas, G. S., Sharp, J. & Goldsmid, H. J. Thermoelectrics: Basic Principles and New Materials Developments (Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, 2001).

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references


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

Authors and Affiliations



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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Guodong Li.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Li, G., Garcia Fernandez, J., Lara Ramos, D.A. et al. Integrated microthermoelectric coolers with rapid response time and high device reliability. Nat Electron 1, 555–561 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing