Definition

Peltier effect

What is the Peltier effect?

The Peltier effect is a temperature difference created by applying a voltage between two electrodes connected to a sample of semiconductor material. This phenomenon can be useful when it is necessary to transfer heat from one medium to another on a small scale. The Peltier effect is one of three types of thermoelectric effect; the other two are the Seebeck effect and the Thomson effect.

In a Peltier-effect device, the electrodes are typically made of a metal with excellent electrical conductivity. The semiconductor material between the electrodes creates two junctions between dissimilar materials, which, in turn, creates a pair of thermocouplevoltage is applied to the electrodes to force electrical current through the semiconductor, thermal energy flows in the direction of the charge carriers.

Peltier-effect devices are used for thermoelectric cooling in electronic equipment and computers when more conventional cooling methods are impractical.

The Peltier effect is named for its discoverer, French physicist Jean-Charles Athanase Peltier.

This was last updated in November 2008
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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