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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

University of Notre Dame


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
Types of Refrigeration
Compressive
Utilizes a refrigerant fluid and a compressor
Efficiency: ~30-50% of Carnot value
Thermoelectric
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, 16th Int. Conf. on Thermoelectrics, pp. 636, 1997

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EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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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EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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 http://www.dts-generator.com/main-e.htm

core as the heat source


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EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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 fmH
metal cathode in contact fmC

with a heat source will Cathode Vacuum


Anode
emit electrons to a lower Barrier

work function anode


University of Notre Dame
EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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,
can’t 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

University of Notre Dame


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
Why the ‘fuss’ about cooling?
Power dissipation in electronics is
becoming a huge issue…
Processor Chip Power Density

Intel

University of Notre Dame


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
How Thermionic Refrigerators Work
Under an applied bias, ‘hot’
electrons flow to the hot side fmH
fmC
of the junction
Removing the high energy Cathode Anode
electrons from the cold side of
the junction cools it Structure under thermal equilibrium

Charge neutrality is maintained thermionic


by adding electrons emission
fmC
adiabatically through an ohmic tunneling
contact Anode
fmH
Amount of heat absorbed in
cathode is total current times E
the average energy of electrons Cathode
e- flow
emitted over the barrier
Structure under bias
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EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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

University of Notre Dame


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
Thermionic Refrigeration
Thermionic devices are based on Richardson’s
equations
describes current per unit area emitted by a metal
with work function f and temperature T

Cathode barrier height as a function of current

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

University of Notre Dame


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
Thermionic Refrigerator Operation
Practical thermionic refrigerators should emit at least
1 A/cm2 from the cathode
fm (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


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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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EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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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EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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

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EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
Heterostructure Refrigeration

Electron mean free path l at fmC


fmH
300K is assumed to be 0.2mm
L
Barrier thickness L must be < l
Shakouri, A. and Bowers, J. E., Heterostructure Integrated Thermionic Refrigeration, 16th Int. Conf. on Thermoelectrics, pp. 636, 1997

University of Notre Dame


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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 Efficiency of a multiple barrier TIR where
TH=300K and TC=260K as a function of f TH=300K and TC=260K as a function of f
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


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
SiGe/Si Microcoolers

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


superlattice (3mm 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


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
SiGe/Si Microcoolers

Optimum device size: 50x50 ~60x60mm2


Author reports maximum cooling of 20-30ºC 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


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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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EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
Further Improvement
Reduce thermal
conductivity (materials)
The current limitation in
superlattice coolers is
the contact resistance
between the metal and
cap layer
Maximum cooling for
Ohmic contacts to a contact resistance of:
thermionic emission
0 Wcm2
device (ballistic transport) 10-8 Wcm2
will have a non-zero 10-7 Wcm2
resistance due to joule 10-6 Wcm2
heating from the large
current densities
Ulrich, M. D., P. A. Barnes, and C. B. Vining, “Effect of contact resistance in solid-state thermionic emission”, J. Appl. Phys., Vol. 92 No. 1, pp. 245, 2002

University of Notre Dame


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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%

University of Notre Dame


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
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


EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration
Conclusions
Small area, localized cooling, can be
implemented with current IC fabrication
techniques
With optimization, current devices could
provide:
Cooling of 20-30ºC for ~50x50 mm2 areas
Several thousands of W/cm2 cooling power
density
Further exotic structures could increase
efficiency further
Questions???
University of Notre Dame
EE666 - Thermionic Refrigeration