Ferrotec's Thermoelectric Technical Reference Guide is a comprehensive technical explanation of thermoelectrics and thermoelectric technology.
3.1 Applications for thermoelectric modules cover a wide spectrum of product areas. These include equipment used by military, medical, industrial, consumer, scientific/laboratory, and telecommunications organizations. Uses range from simple food and beverage coolers for an afternoon picnic to extremely sophisticated temperature control systems in missiles and space vehicles.
Unlike a simple heat sink, a thermoelectric cooler permits lowering the temperature of an object below ambient as well as stabilizing the temperature of objects which are subject to widely varying ambient conditions. A thermoelectric cooler is an active cooling module whereas a heat sink provides only passive cooling.
Thermoelectric coolers generally may be considered for applications that require heat removal ranging from milliwatts up to several thousand watts. Most single-stage TE coolers, including both high and low current modules, are capable of pumping a maximum of 3 to 6 watts per square centimeter (20 to 40 watts per square inch) of module surface area. Multiple modules mounted thermally in parallel may be used to increase total heat pump performance. Large thermoelectric systems in the kilowatt range have been built in the past for specialized applications such as cooling within submarines and railroad cars. Systems of this magnitude are now proving quite valuable in applications such as semiconductor manufacturing lines.
3.2 Typical applications for thermoelectric modules include: