About Thermoelectric Cooling and Heating

Thermoelectric modules are solid-state devices (no moving parts) that convert electrical energy into a temperature gradient, known as the "Peltier effect".

A thermoelectric (TE) cooler, sometimes called a thermoelectric module or Peltier cooler, is a semiconductor-based electronic component that functions as a small heat pump. By applying a low voltage DC power source to a TE module, heat will be moved through the module from one side to the other. One module face, therefore, will be cooled while the opposite face simultaneously is heated. It is important to note that this phenomenon may be reversed whereby a change in the polarity (plus and minus) of the applied DC voltage will cause heat to be moved in the opposite direction. Consequently, a thermoelectric module may be used for both heating and cooling thereby making it highly suitable for precise temperature control applications.

Since TE modules are electrical in nature, in a closed-loop system with an appropriate temperature sensor and controller, TE modules can easily maintain temperatures that vary within a tenth of one degree.


Thermoelectric Cooling

By applying a low voltage DC power to a Thermoelectric module, heat will be moved through the module from one side to the other. One module face, therefore, will be cooled while the opposite face is simultaneously heated. It is important to note that this phenomenon may be reversed whereby a change in the polarity (plus and minus) of the applied DC voltage will cause heat to be moved in the opposite direction. Consequently, a thermoelectric module may be used for both heating and cooling thereby making it highly suitable for precise temperature control applications.

The schematic diagram above shows a typical thermoelectric module assembly. Both N-type and P-type Bismuth Telluride thermoelectric materials are used in a thermoelectric cooler. This arrangement causes heat to move through the cooler in one direction only while the electrical current moves back and forth alternately between the top and bottom substrates through each N and P element. N-type material is doped so that it will have an excess of electrons (more electrons than needed to complete a perfect molecular lattice structure) and P-type material is doped so that it will have a deficiency of electrons (fewer electrons than are necessary to complete a perfect lattice structure). The extra electrons in the N material and the "holes" resulting from the deficiency of electrons in the P material are the carriers which move the heat energy through the thermoelectric material. Most thermoelectric cooling modules are fabricated with an equal number of N-type and P-type elements where one N and P element pair form a thermoelectric "couple." For example, the module illustrated above has two pairs of N and P elements and is termed a "two-couple module".

Cooling capacity (heat actively pumped through the thermoelectric module) is proportional to the magnitude of the applied DC electric current and the thermal conditions on each side of the module. By varying the input current from zero to maximum, it is possible to regulate the heat flow and control the surface temperature.


TestEquity Model TEC1 is the world's first commercially available Thermoelectric Temperature Chamber. It was originally designed for engineering testing of pacemakers and defibrillators over a relatively narrow range of temperature. Since our initial product release, customers have found the TEC1 useful for battery testing, stabilization of oscillators and sensitive filters, and other similar applications.

Thermoelectric devices are ideally suited for these applications, where just a little bit of cooling is required. The resulting design is quieter, more reliable, more compact, and weighs less than conventional refrigeration systems which use a compressor.

TEC1 Thermoelectric Temperature Chamber

 

  • Workspace 16W x 8H x 13D (0.96 Cu Ft)
  • Exterior 24.7W x 12H x 20.4D
  • Temperature Range +10°C to +60°C (+50°F to +140°F)
  • Control Tolerance better than ±0.1°C
  • Platinum RTD Temperature Sensor
  • EZ-Zone Programmable Temperature Controller with Auto-Tuning
  • RS-232C Interface, optional GPIB and LAN
  • Thermoelectric Heating and Cooling - No Compressors, No Heaters
  • Quiet Operation
  • 115V / 230 V, 50-60 Hz Input (switchable)
  • Weighs only 54 pounds