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Thermoelectric Cooling Modules Constructed using Thermally Conductive PCBs
Keywords: Thermoelectrics, TCPCBs, Refrigeration
Thermoelectric modules (TEMs) have been built using thermally conductive PCB materials instead of metalized ceramics. TEMs consist of two circuit boards with semiconductor pellets soldered between them. Typically alumina is chosen for its cost, CTE, and thermal conductivity. Thermally conductive PCBs achieve the same thermal performance by using a dielectric layer 1/10th the thickness of a typical alumina substrate. The costs of thermally conductive PCBs have a clear advantage over alumina at small board sizes. Potential issues with CTE in large modules can be addressed using a double-sided laminate on one side instead of an aluminum-backed board. This presentation will describe the performance characteristics and reliability of this class of TEMs as well as new applications noted below. The use of thermally conductive PCBs makes several innovations possible. First, a TEM may be built using a double-sided laminate whose outer surface is patterned to allow cooled components to be mounted directly to the TEM. Second, a TEM can be built using multilayer laminates, allowing multiple electrically independent subcircuits within the TEM. This can provide spot cooling or on-the-fly adjustment of current draw. Third, the use of double-sided laminates allows the construction of modules with a small overall thickness. Fourth, a TEM can be constructed with built-in edge connectors or internal temperature sensors. Fifth, the PCB industry is experienced in etching with small line spacings, allowing a higher component packing density and therefore greater cooling per unit area.
Dr. Jeff Hershberger, Staff Scientist, Technology Leader for Thermoelectrics
Laird Technologies
Cleveland, OH

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