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Improved efficiency of TCPCB-based thermoelectric coolers when cooling concentrated heat loads
Keywords: thermoelectric, optoelectronic, efficiency
Non-uniform heat loads on the controlled side of a thermoelectric cooler have been demonstrated to reduce the efficiency of the system in maintaining the heat load at a desired temperature. Non-uniform heat loads occur when the heat is generated in a component that is smaller than the TEC, or when heat generation within a large component is inhomogeneous. The efficiency of a model system with non-uniform heat loads was shown to be improved when a thermoelectric cooler based on thermally conductive printed circuit boards (TCPCBs) was used instead of a traditional thermoelectric cooler based on aluminum oxide printed circuit boards. TCPCBs are laminates consisting of a metal backing plate (here, 0.64mm thick copper), a layer of thermally conductive filled polymer for electrical isolation, and a copper foil that can be etched into circuit patterns using standard PCB processes. TCPCBs are a well established technology but their application to thermoelectrics is new. Testing was conducted on TECs with Al2O3 circuit boards and TCPCBs but identical internal circuits. They pumped a fixed amount of heat generated in a load 25% the width of the TEC, while measuring the power required to achieve a fixed temperature at the heat load. The efficiency (heat pumped divided by TEC drive power) was improved by 83% for TCPCB-based TECs as compared to Al2O3-based TECs. Additional testing was performed with ceramic or copper plates between the heat load and the TEC to improve heat spreading. The best efficiency was observed with a copper plate between the TEC and the heat load; this improvement can be integrated into the design of a TCPCB-based TEC by choosing a backing plate of the appropriate thickness before lamination.
Jeff Hershberger, Staff Scientist
Laird Technologies, Inc
Cleveland, OH

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