It is well established that the power dissipation for electronic components is increasing. At the same time, high performance portable equipment with volume, weight, and power limitations are gaining widespread acceptance in the marketplace. The combination of the above conditions requires thermal solutions that are high performance and yet small, light, and power efficient. This paper explores the possibility of using thermoelectric (TE) refrigeration as an integrated solution for portable electronic equipment accounting for heat sink and interface material thermal resistances. The current study shows that TE refrigeration can indeed have a benefit over using just a heat sink. Performance maps illustrating where TE refrigeration offers an advantage over an air-cooled heat sink are created for a parametric range of CPU heat flows, heat sink thermal resistances, and TE material properties. During the course of the study, it was found that setting the TE operating current based on minimizing the CPU temperature (Tj), as opposed to maximizing the amount of heat pumping, significantly reduces Tj. For the baseline case studied, a reduction of 20–30°C was demonstrated over a range of CPU heat dissipation. The parametric studies also illustrate that management of the heat sink thermal resistance appears to be more critical than the CPU/TE interfacial thermal resistance. However, setting the TE current based on a minimum Tj as opposed to maximum heat pumping reduces the system sensitivity to the heat sink thermal resistance.

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