Impact of Self-Assembly Process Errors on Thermoelectric Performance

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Thermoelectric devices have many scaling benefits that motivate miniaturization, but assembly of small components is a significant challenge. Self-assembly provides a promising method for integrating very small elements. However, it introduces the possibility of stochastic errors with significant performance impacts. This work presents a method to estimate the impact of these errors on system performance. Equivalent thermoelectric properties are developed that adjust for the effect of missing elements in one-dimensional thermoelectric models. The models show that the thermoelectric devices can accommodate significant self-assembly errors by incorporation of redundant electrical paths. The model shows nearly linear decline in effective power factor with declining assembly accuracy, but the effective figure of merit (ZT) is relatively insensitive to assembly errors. Predictions from the modified one-dimensional model agree well with three-dimensional finite element simulations. This work identifies two basic strategies for how devices such as thermoelectric could be designed for self-assembly and demonstrates that it is possible to achieve high performance despite self-assembly process errors.

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Journal of Electronic Packaging, v. 134, issue 3, art. 031001