A highly efficient small-scale thermoelectric module for both energy generation and cooling applications has been developed at the University of Michigan. Current thermoelectric devices are inefficient—with efficiencies of around 6% at best. Even though thermoelectric materials have advanced significantly in recent years, challenges preclude their use in high performance devices. Specifically, associated challenges include achieving high thermal resistance and realizing high area utilization.
The thermoelectric module developed at the University of Michigan overcomes the aforementioned challenges and achieves high thermal resistance and high area efficiency. In the proposed design, thermoelectric materials are deposited over the sidewalls of insulating molds, allowing for the creation of long thermoelectric elements with high thermal resistance and high area utilization due to the vertical nature of the design. Overall, the fabrication process is compatible with advanced thermoelectric thin films. And further, the technology is compatible with advanced thermoelectric materials (quantum well and super lattice based), and allows both cross-plane and in-plane thermoelectric properties to be used.
- Energy generation: Wireless sensor nodes, infrastructure monitoring equipment, consumer electronics
- Thermoelectric cooling: Laser diodes, integrated circuits, infrared sensors, clothing, Scientific instruments
- High area efficiency
- High-energy efficiency
- Compatible with advanced thermoelectric materials (quantum well and super lattice based)
- Leverages both cross-plane and in-plane thermoelectric properties