Thermoelectric effects have been known for almost two centuries. In 1821 Thomas Johann Seebeck (1770–1831) discovered the Seebeck effect and in 1834 Jean Charles Athanase Peltier (1785–1845) discovered the Peltier effect. The third thermoelectric effect is the Thomson effect found by Sir William Thomson (1824–1907), better known under the name of Lord Kelvin. In his thermodynamic theory, which was published around 1860, Sir William Thomson explained all three effects – an explanation which is still valid today.
All these effects have been employed in devices using suitable compound semiconductors: thermogenerator devices for converting heat into electric energy and Peltier cooler devices for pumping heat using a current flow.
The trend towards miniaturization in all technical fields demands new concepts for the manufacture of thin film devices. For example, future generation PC processors and lasers for the telecommunications industry will not only require a high cooling power density but also a small form factor. To meet these technical challenges the "thermoelectrical rules of design" require optimized geometries on a micrometer scale. Additionally cost-effective mass-production is a prerequisite for a competitive market position – an option that conventional thermoelectric manufacturing technologies do not offer.
Micropelt stands for a new generation of thermoelectric thin film devices. Micropelt satisfies the design demands on a micrometer scale by applying and employing microelectronic thin film wafer technology and manufacturing methods. This is the fundamental difference to the traditional and largely manual production on a macrometer scale. Micropelt holds the key to a wider and more substantial thermoelectric market with new applications for » Peltier cooler and » thermogenerator devices for » temperature control and » energy harvesting.