Distributed Control to Improve the Performance of Thermoelectric Coolers
Harvey, Richard Dale
Many research initiatives are currently underway to improve the performance of thermoelectric coolers (TECs). The primary drawback of TECs is their inefficiency. Most of the ongoing research concentrates on various materials enhancements. One neglected area of improving TECs is the method in which they are powered and controlled. Typical TEC thermocouples are powered in series although they remove heat in parallel. In other words, if one of the numerous thermocouples is powered, all the thermocouples receive the same power whether or not they are needed. By sensing and controlling the cooling of the individual devices within the system a significant increase in performance can be achieved for the entire system. This thesis presents the evidence that applying distributed control to TEC operation can realize appreciable improvement in performance. The average improvement in performance over the operating range investigated here is 80%. Additionally, this type of control can be used in conjunction with many of the existing research initiatives to further compound the benefits.