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Thermionic

Refrigeration
Jeffrey A. Bean
EE666 Advanced Semiconductor Devices

University of Notre Dame


Department of Electrical Engineering

Outline
Types of refrigeration
Application of each type in electronics
Why the fuss about cooling?
Thermionic refrigeration (TIR) in detail
Current Devices
Improvements
Possible uses

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Types of Refrigeration
Compressive
Utilizes a refrigerant fluid and a compressor
Efficiency: ~30-50% of Carnot value

Thermoelectric

T
c
Tc

Utilizes materials which produce a temperature


gradient with potential across device
Efficiency: ~5-10% of Carnot value

Thermionic
Utilizes parallel materials separated by a small
distance (either vacuum or other material)
Efficiency: ~10-30% of Carnot value
Shakouri, A. and Bowers, J. E., Heterostructure Integrated Thermionic Refrigeration, 16 th Int. Conf. on Thermoelectrics, pp. 636, 1997

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Compressive Refrigeration
1) Refrigerant fluid is compressed (high
pressure temperature increases)
2) Fluid flows through an
expansion valve into low
pressure chamber (phase of
refrigerant also changes)
3) Coils absorb heat in the
device

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Thermoelectric Refrigeration (TER)


A temperature difference between the
junctions of two dissimilar metal wires
produces a voltage potential
(known as the Seebeck Effect)
Peltier cooling forces heat
flow from one side to the
other by applying an
external electric potential
Thermoelectric generation
is utilized on deep space
missions using a plutonium
core as the heat source
University of Notre Dame

http://www.dts-generator.com/main-e.htm

Thermionic Refrigeration (TIR)


Investigation into thermionic energy
conversion began in the 1950s
Utilizes fact that electrons with high
thermal energy (greater than the work
function) can escape from the metal
General idea:
A high work function
metal cathode in contact
with a heat source will
emit electrons to a lower
work function anode
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mH

Cathode

mC
Vacuum
Barrier

Anode

Impact of Each Type on Electronics


Compressive
Pros: efficient, high cooling power from ambient
Cons: bulky, expensive, noisy, power consumption, scaling

Thermoelectric
Pros: lightweight, small footprint
Cons: lousy efficiency, low cooling power from ambient,
cant be integrated on IC chips, power consumption

Thermionic
Pros: integration on ICs using current technology, low power
Cons: only support localized cooling, low cooling power
from ambient temperature
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Why the fuss about cooling?


Power dissipation in electronics is
becoming a huge issue
Processor Chip Power Density

Intel

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How Thermionic Refrigerators Work


Under an applied bias, hot
electrons flow to the hot side
of the junction
Removing the high energy
electrons from the cold side of
the junction cools it
Charge neutrality is maintained
by adding electrons
adiabatically through an ohmic
contact
Amount of heat absorbed in
cathode is total current times
the average energy of electrons
emitted over the barrier

mH

mC

Cathode

Anode

Structure under thermal equilibrium

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thermionic
emission

mC

tunneling
Anode

mH
E
Cathode

e- flow

Structure under bias

TER vs. TIR


Thermoelectric Refrigeration
Electrons absorb energy from the lattice
Based on bulk properties of the semiconductor

Electron transport is diffusive

Thermionic Refrigeration
Electron transport is ballistic
Selective emission of hot carriers from cathode
to anode yields higher efficiency than TER
Tunneling of lower energy carriers reduces efficiency

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Thermionic Refrigeration
Thermionic devices are based on Richardsons
equations
describes current per unit area emitted by a metal
with work function and temperature T
J E ( , T ) A * T F1 ( )
2

J Q ( , T ) A * T 2

kT
2 F2 ( ) F1 ( )
q

4qm * k 2
A*
h3
q
C
kT

Cathode barrier height as a function of current


k BT
c (T , I )
q

qm * k B 2T 2
ln( I )
ln
2 3

Mahan, G. D., Thermionic Refrigeration, J. Appl. Phys, Vol. 76 (7) , pp. 4362, 1994.

University of Notre Dame

Thermionic Refrigerator Operation


Practical thermionic refrigerators should emit at least
1 A/cm2 from the cathode
m (eV) vs. Temperature (K)

For room temperature operation, a work function of


~0.4eV is needed
Most metal work functions are in the range of 4-5eV
Mahan, G. D., Thermionic Refrigeration, J. Appl. Phys, Vol. 76 (7) , pp. 4363, 1994.

University of Notre Dame

Thermionic Refrigerator Issues


Lowering the barrier height to provide for room
temperature cooling
Metal-Vacuum-Metal thermionic refrigerators only
operate at high temperatures (>700K)

Anode/Cathode spacing
Uniformity of electrodes
Proximity issues

Space charges in the vacuum region


Impedes the flow of electrons from the anode to the
cathode by introducing an extra potential barrier

Thermal conductivity (in semiconductor devices)


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Barrier height problem solved!...kind of


Need materials with low barrier heights
Heterostructures are perfect for this!
Bandgap engineering
Layer thickness and composition using epitaxial growth
techniques (MBE and MOCVD)
Field assisted transport across barrier

Close and uniform spacing of anode and cathode is no


longer a problem
Space charge can be controlled by modulation doping
in the barrier region
Alloys can be used to create desired Schottky barrier
heights at contacts

Drawback: High thermal conductivity of


semiconductors (compared to vacuum)
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Heterostructure Cooling Power


Effective mass affects
the cooling performance
by changing the density
of supply electrons and
electrons in the barrier
This cooling power
reduces at lower
temperatures because
the Fermi-Dirac
distribution of electrons
narrows as T decreases
Shakouri, A. and Bowers, J. E., Heterostructure Integrated Thermionic Refrigeration, Appl. Phys. Lett. 71 (9), pp. 1234, 1997

University of Notre Dame

Heterostructure Refrigeration

Electron mean free path at


300K is assumed to be 0.2m
Barrier thickness L must be <

mC
mH

Shakouri, A. and Bowers, J. E., Heterostructure Integrated Thermionic Refrigeration, 16 th Int. Conf. on Thermoelectrics, pp. 636, 1997

University of Notre Dame

Multilayer (Superlattice) Heterostructures


Overall thermal conductivity reduced to ~10% of the
individual materials that compose it
Efficiency increases 5-10 times over single barrier structures

Efficiency of a single barrier TIR where


TH=300K and TC=260K as a function of

Efficiency of a multiple barrier TIR where


TH=300K and TC=260K as a function of

Mahan, G. D., J. O. Sofo, and M. Bartkowiak, Multilayer thermionic refrigerator and generator, J. Appl. Phys., Vol. 83 No. 9, pp. 4683, 1998

University of Notre Dame

SiGe/Si Microcoolers

200 repeated layers of 3nmSi/12nmSi0.75Ge0.25


superlattice (3m thick)
Grown on Si0.8Ge0.2 buffer layer on Si substrate
Mesa etch to define devices
Shakouri, A. and Zhang, Y., On-Chip Solid-State Cooling for ICs Using Thin-Film Microrefrigerators, IEEE Trans. On Comp. and Pack. Tech., Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 66, 2005

University of Notre Dame

SiGe/Si Microcoolers

Optimum device size: 50x50 ~60x60m2


Author reports maximum cooling of 20-30C and
several thousands of W/cm2 cooling power density
with optimized SiGe superlattic structures
Shakouri, A. and Zhang, Y., On-Chip Solid-State Cooling for ICs Using Thin-Film Microrefrigerators, IEEE Trans. On Comp. and Pack. Tech., Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 67, 2005

University of Notre Dame

Advantages of Heterostructure TIR


Compared to bulk thermoelectric
refrigerators
1) very small size and standard thin-film
fabrication - suitable for monolithic
integration on IC chips
Possible to put refrigerator near active devices and
cool hot spots directly

2) higher cooling power density


3) transient response of SiGe/Si superlattice
refrigerators is several orders of magnitude
faster (105 for these SiGe/Si microrefrigerators)
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Further Improvement
Reduce thermal
conductivity (materials)
The current limitation in
superlattice coolers is
the contact resistance
between the metal and
cap layer
Ohmic contacts to a
thermionic emission
device (ballistic transport)
will have a non-zero
resistance due to joule
heating from the large
current densities

Maximum cooling for


contact resistance of:
0 cm2
10-8

cm2

10-7 cm2
10-6
Ulrich, M. D., P. A. Barnes, and C. B. Vining, Effect of contact resistance in solid-state thermionic emission, J. Appl. Phys., Vol.292 No. 1, pp. 245, 2002
cm
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More Improvements
Packaging is also an important aspect of
the device optimization
Addition of a package between chip and heat
sink adds another thermal barrier
Use of Si or Cu packages aided in reducing this
thermal resistance

Optimizing length of wire bonds

These improvements have resulted in a


maximum cooling increase of >100%
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Light Emission
Heat flowing in the reverse direction to the thermionic
emission due to lattice heat conduction reduces the
temperature difference and destroys efficiency
Opto-thermionic refrigeration gets the thermionic carriers:
e- from n-doped and h+ from p-doped semiconductor from
each side could recombine radiatively

Intersubband Light Emitting Cooler

Interband LEC

Shakouri, A. and Bowers, J. E., Heterostructure Integrated Thermionic Refrigeration, 16th Int. Conf. on Thermoelectrics, pp. 636, 1997

University of Notre Dame

Conclusions
Small area, localized cooling, can be
implemented with current IC fabrication
techniques
With optimization, current devices could
provide:
Cooling of 20-30C for ~50x50 m2 areas
Several thousands of W/cm2 cooling power
density

Further exotic structures could increase


efficiency further
Questions???
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