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What is Thermoelectric Cooling and Why Do We Use It?


What is Thermoelectric Cooling?

Thermoelectric cooler modules are solid state heat pumps that operate according to the Peltier effect.

When an electrical current is supplied, the devices are capable of cooling or heating and can be thermally cycled at PWM (pulse width modulator) frequencies.

Alternatively, they may be used to minimize the effects of temperature coefficients on oscillator stability, reference voltages and amplifier offsets by providing temperature control.

Why use Thermoelectrics?

Thermoelectric cooler modules are ideal for applications that require active cooling below ambient temperatures. A design engineer should consider thermoelectric cooling when a system design requires localised electronic cooling with

Precise Temperature Control

Peltier coolers have fast feedback control mechanisms with temperature control to within fractions of a degree.

High Reliability

Solid state technology means that modules have MTBF (mean time between failure) of more than 100,000 hours.

Suitability for Hazardous, Extreme or Remote environments

Thermoelectric modules have no moving parts and require virtually no maintenance. They are also capable of cooling far below ambient temperature.

Compact Physical Constraints

Compact geometry constraints and low weight.


Solid state cooling means no need for chemical coolants, with no CFC or refrigerant emissions.

No refilling is required.


The thermoelectric effect is modular and scalable. In general cooling power is proportional to area and volume.


Thermoelectrics can be used to heat and cool by simply reversing the current. Thermoelectric generators (TEGs) are also used to harvest energy from waste heat. These can then be built into the system to provide electricity to localised cooling/heating systems.

Thermoelectric Assemblies

Adaptive® thermoelectric assemblies consist of various thermal management components. Fans, heatsinks/ heatpipes and thermal interface products are used in combination with TEMs to optimise cooling or heating efficiency.

There are two types of thermoelectric assemblies that we supply via distributors (see image below).

Direct-to-air systems are where solid surfaces are cooled and heat is dissipated to the surrounding air.

Air-to-air systems are where the air in an enclosure is cooled and the heat is dissipated to the surrounding air (usually using two fans).

Fig. 2 Examples of Adaptive® thermoelectric air-to-air and direct-to-air assemblies

We also supply liquid-to-air systems where liquid is cooled or heated and pumped through a system. These systems are especially useful when harvesting waste heat via thermoelectric generators (TEG) and redistributing the heat as required via thermoelectric coolers (TEM). A typical market for this type of system would be the automotive market where climate control within a vehicle needs to be managed in an efficient way.

Fig. 3 Typical applications of thermoelectric cooling

European Thermodynamics are experts in the field of Thermoelectrics. We recognise that standard product solutions, however flexible, will not always meet our customer’s needs. With our complete knowledge of cooling systems we know which combinations of products and materials work best.

We work with many global OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) companies to provide their optimal cooling solution, therefore helping them to gain a competitive edge in their respective markets.

Adaptive® thermoelectric assemblies are available through RS Components and Farnell Element 14. To enquire about a custom thermoelectric assembly or thermal management solution contact us.